Thursday, July 8, 2010

Arbitrator To Decide If ILWU SoCal Dockers Can Honor Clerical Worker Strike

Striking maritime clerical workers in Southern California and the association representing their maritime industry employers will sit down for a formal hearing before a waterfront arbitrator Thursday to determine if the union has been negotiating in good faith.

Members of the Office Clerical Unit of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union Local 63 have been on strike since their contract expired on July 1.

The outcome of Thursday's formal hearing could determine whether ILWU dockworkers at the ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles can refuse to cross the OCU picket lines--a move that, if allowed, could shutter the nation's busiest container port complex. Last week, an arbitrator determined that the OCU had not negotiated in good faith in the hours leading up to the contract expiration and therefore the ILWU dockers could not honor the strike.

The OCU represents about 950 clerical workers in Southern California that handle paperwork and customer service for 17 shipping companies and terminal operators at the LA/LB ports. The current contract talks, however, only covers members at 14 firms.

Since the July 1 contract expiration, negotiations have made little progress, according to reports from the bargaining table.

In addition to wage and benefit increases, the OCU is seeking job security guarantees as a counter to the employers' proposed use of computer programs that the union believes will lead to union job losses.

The employers, represented by the Harbor Employers Association, are seeking more flexibility in staffing. The HEA claims that OCU members experience 20 percent down time due to fluctuations in work load, but the employers are currently required to keep the workers on a full-time schedule.

According to the HEA, Southern California OCU members are the highest paid white collar workers in the nation, with average annual salaries of about $96,000 and annual benefit payouts of an additional $66,000 per worker.

tags: Port of Long Beach, Port of Los Angeles, ILWU