Matson and its unlicensed seafarers avoid strike
By Michael Hansen, Hawaii Shippers Council, June 30, 2017
The Pacific Business News (PBN) published at 2:15 p.m., Friday, June 30, 2017, a news article, “Hawaii Shipper’s Council head says Matson strike unlikely,” reporting remarks by Michael Hansen, President, Hawaii Shippers Council.
By 3:41 p.m. Friday, the Honolulu Star Advertiser, published a follow-up article, “Matson and unions reach tentative deal, averting strike,” reporting that Matson and the two seafarers’ unions had reached a tentative agreement subject to ratification by the rank and file.
The Honolulu Star Advertiser reported, “Gunnar Lundeberg, president of the Sailors’ Union of the Pacific, told the Honolulu Star-Advertiser: ‘There is no strike. We reached an agreement. Matson did the right thing. Our fair and reasonable proposals were ultimately accepted and we reached an agreement. It will be business as usual.’
Key excerpts from the PBN article:
The president of the Hawaii Shipper’s Council said it's unlikely that a contract dispute between the sailors and fireman unions and Honolulu-based shipping company Matson will result in a strike.
Michael Hansen told Pacific Business News a strike is unlikely since shutting down operations would not be in the best interest of either of the parties involved.
According to Hansen, Matson has a 70 to 80 percent share of Hawaii's domestic container trade.
When asked whether Pasha, Matson’s main competitor in Hawaii, would be able to make up for a shortage in the event a strike does take place, Hansen said no.
“If Matson is struck and the other maritime unions respect the pickets, Pasha Hawaii would certainly benefit from any possible strike,” he said. “However, Pasha Hawaii doesn’t have the containership or container capacity to carry all the cargo moving on Matson.”
Hansen said he doesn’t think a potential strike could open up the door to a new Mainland-Hawaii shipper either.
“The cost of Jones Act ships required for the domestic Hawaii trade are so extraordinarily expensive very few with the wherewithal would have the fortitude to undertake the risk,” he said. “Also, a new entrant carrier would need to have a terminal in Honolulu Harbor, which is not available.”
“Depending on how long a prospective strike might last, a strike of some duration, say a week or more, could have very serious impacts not only on Hawaii but also Guam,” Hansen said.
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Hansen interviewed about possible Matson strike
by Michael Hansen, Hawaii Shippers Council, June 28, 2017
The Fox Broadcasting Company (FOX) affiliate in Hawaii -- KHON2 TV – broadcast a segment on their evening news at 6:00 p.m., Wednesday, June 28, 2017, “Expert says strike unlikely despite looming contract deadline for some Matson workers,” reporting on the pending expiration of two maritime union contracts with Matson Navigation Company Inc. (Matson).
Matson is the major ocean carrier between ports on the U.S. West Coast and in Hawaii with approximately 80% of the container cargo traffic, and a disruption in their service due to a strike would have a serious impact on the State’s economy.
The FOX reporter, Manolo Morales, interviewed Michael Hansen, Hawaii Shippers’ Council, for the story, which was posted to the KHON2 website. The video can be accessed through the link.
Matson and two of its workers unions are in negotiations over contracts that will expire on Friday. If they don’t reach a deal by then, workers could go on strike.
Experts say that is not likely to happen.
The head of the Hawaii Shippers Council says the two unions represent a relatively small percentage of the Matson workforce, but a strike would still cripple the company’s operations and he doesn’t see Matson allowing that to happen.
The two unions in negotiations with Matson are the Sailors Union of the Pacific and the Maritime Firemen’s Union. They are known as unlicensed personnel who work the cargo ships, meaning they are blue-collar workers, not deck officers and captains.
The contract for both unions will expire at 9 p.m. Friday Hawaii time, which is midnight on the West Coast. Workers could go on strike by then, but it’s also possible for both sides to agree to extend the deadline so they can continue negotiating.
Hansen says Matson ships about 80 percent of the goods that come in from the mainland to Hawaii, so Matson has too much at stake to let a strike happen.
Instead, Hansen says, negotiations will likely come down to the wire, and a deal will be reached or at least an extension of the deadline.
“This will not come to a strike. It does not make economic sense for Matson to have their operations shut down,” Hansen said. “The potential losses for Matson in a situation like that are so large that it doesn’t seem reasonable that they wouldn’t come to a last-minute agreement with these two unions.”