Tuesday, July 13, 2010

ILWU Clerical Workers Return to Work at SoCal Ports, Contract Talks Continue

Striking union clerical workers at the ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles returned to work Monday as stalled contract negotiation resumed between union officials and the group representing 14 shipping and terminal employers.

Officials representing about 900 members of the Office Clerical Unit of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union Local 63 gave no immediate reason for the end of pickets at four terminals in the Southern California port complex.

The OCU members, who handle paperwork and office support work for shipping and terminal facilities in the Southern California ports, walked off the job when their three-year contract expired July 1.

Negotiations between the OCU and the employers’ Harbor Employers Association had stalled as of Friday, with both sides reporting little progress during the strike.

A major item sought by OCU officials is new contract language preventing the outsourcing of OCU jobs and job eliminations through automation.

Employers are seeking flexibility in staffing during down times that they contend leave OCU members with little to do 20 percent of the time while still collecting full-time wages under the current contract.

The return to work by the OCU also comes just two days after union officials expanded picket lines at the ports to include a China Ocean Shipping Company terminal at the Port of Long Beach. OCU pickets had already been in place at the Hanjin terminal in Long Beach and the Port of Los Angeles’ Evergreen and Yang Ming terminals.

ILWU dockworkers, who operate under a separate labor agreement with the Pacific Maritime Association, have been blocked by an arbitrator from honoring the OCU strike.

Last week, arbitrator David Miller ruled for a second time since July 1 that the more than 10,000 Southern California ILWU dockers could not honor the OCU picket lines because the OCU strike was “non-bonafide” due to violations of good faith bargaining rules during negotiations.

In his first ruling on July 1, Miller ruled that the OCU had failed to abide by the definition of good faith bargaining in the current contract because it’s representatives were using “disingenuous actions to exert economic pressure upon the above named terminals to obtain unreasonable monetary concessions.”
During the 11 days of picketing, both ports reported little impact by the OCU strike on terminal operations.