Concierge dispute prompts Royal Hawaiian walkout

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More than 2,000 members of Local 5 participated in a strike Jan. 26 to protest a decision by Kyo-ya Hotels and Resorts to subcontract concierge services at the Royal Hawaiian, pictured, and three other Honolulu properties.
More than 2,000 members of Local 5 participated in a strike Jan. 26 to protest a decision by Kyo-ya Hotels and Resorts to subcontract concierge services at the Royal Hawaiian, pictured, and three other Honolulu properties. Photo Credit: Photo by Tor Johnson/HTA

More than 2,000 hotel employees participated in a one-day strike on Jan. 26 to protest moves by Kyo-ya Hotels and Resorts to subcontract concierge services at the Royal Hawaiian and three other properties.

The strike was planned by the Unite Here Local 5 union, and a picket line was organized at the resort in Waikiki.

Kyo-ya, a Japan-based hospitality management company, also owns the Moana Surfrider, Sheraton Waikiki Hotel and Sheraton Princess Kaiulani Hotel. Members of the union employed at those properties also participated in the strike. While their union contracts prohibit them from participating in the picket line, thousands did not go in to work that day, according to Local 5 representatives.

"I have worked at the Royal Hawaiian for 31 years, and I have always looked forward to welcoming our valued guests back who are accustomed to our luxury level and personalized concierge services," Wendy Nagaishi, a Royal Hawaiian concierge, said in a statement. "We have always been proud to be part of the Kyo-ya family and are shocked and disappointed to find out that Kyo-ya has decided to replace our entire concierge staff with an outsourced activity desk. Our return guests have come to expect personalized recommendations, not those driven by profit and commissions."

According to the union, the dispute dates back to early October, when a group of 11 concierge employees at the Royal Hawaiian inquired with management about starting the process to decide whether or not to unionize. By the end of October, Kyo-ya announced that tour activities company Pleasant Holidays had been contracted to handle concierge services at all four Honolulu properties beginning Feb. 1, while the existing 42 employees on staff in those departments at the four resorts were given the option of taking a severance package or joining Pleasant Holidays.

"Pleasant Holidays expressed the desire and ability to take care of our employees as well as elevate the range of activities for our guests to enjoy," Kyo-ya said in a statement, adding that it made the decision to subcontract its concierge, tour and activity and dining services during the summer of last year. "Like other hotels in Hawaii and across the nation, it is common industry practice to rely on partners to provide such services."

The concierge workers are asking for their jobs to remain "intact and in-house," according to the statement. Local 5 represents approximately 11,000 workers throughout Hawaii who work in the hospitality, health care and food service industries, of which roughly 2,400 are Kyo-ya employees.

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