- Associated Press - Thursday, February 11, 2016

WAILUKU, Hawaii (AP) - Hawaii’s last sugar plantation, which will be shutting down operations at the end of the year, has announced its first round of layoffs.

Hawaiian Commercial & Sugar Co. officials said 95 workers will lose their jobs March 7. The layoffs announced Tuesday were slightly less than anticipated. The plantation’s parent company, Alexander & Baldwin, said last month that about 100 to 120 workers would be let go in March, The Maui News reported (http://bit.ly/1TUhf2n).

“The employees have been notified and will be working with our team of transition coordinators who will assist them with finding alternative employment opportunities,” HC&S; General Manager Rick Volner said in an email Monday.

The state Department of Labor and Industrial Relations has previously said it would establish a “rapid response service” to help employees applying for unemployment benefits and job training. The department could not be reached for comment Tuesday.

Both county and state officials have said they would help the hundreds of affected workers since the layoffs were announced in January. Gov. David Ige and House Speaker Joe Souki of Maui called for aid for the sugar workers in their opening addresses to the Legislature last month.

Mayor Alan Arakawa has joined in the efforts by setting up the Sugar Operators Work Assistance Task Force. The goal of the task force is to help connect HC&S; workers with job and educational opportunities, training programs, financial and employment counseling and placement services.

It is unclear when the next set of layoffs will be revealed. The company has said it would reduce its workforce from 675 to 15 when the harvest season comes to a close at the end of 2016.

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Information from: The Maui News, http://www.mauinews.com

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