Here in Hawaii, we are having our own little microcosm of WI with the HECO strike that started at 3:30 yesterday. It was bad timing, with the storm that hit and has thousands of residents still without power. But the crux of the matter is quite simple ... HECO (with the director taking home 2.9 million in salary and bonuses in 2009) is trying to negotiate reduced benefits for the workers, with new workers getting an even worse deal.
HECO workers said the two sides disagreed on a management proposal to raise the age of retirement with full benefits to 62 from 60; a proposed reduction in sick leave benefits; and a plan to create a two-tier contract with new hires receiving lower wages and benefits. There also was a dispute over whether negotiated wage increases should begin with ratification of a new contract or expiration of the previous contract last October. Neither company nor union officials would confirm the sticking points in the contract talks.
Governor Abercrombie (Dem) ordered the workers back on the job ...
I have spoken with leaders of Hawaiian Electric Company and the union. My thought is that they can set aside their respective positions during this emergency situation until the public’s safety is taken care of," Gov. Neil Abercrombie said. "The most important thing right now is restoring electric services for residents and ensuring their health and security then resume negotiations.
Its not fair that all those people are living without power, but it also isn't fair to assume the union planned the walkout to coincide with the power outage. These negotiations have been ongoing, and Friday was drop-dead day for HECO to come back to the table with a better offer.