Thursday, July 1, 2010

ILWU Maritime Clerical Workers Strike SoCal Ports

Maritime clerical workers in Southern California have set up picket lines at several Long Beach and Los Angeles marine terminals after contract negotiations with employers broke down.

Members of the Office Clerical Unit (OCU) of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union Local 63 walked off the job just after midnight Wednesday when their 3-year contract with the Los Angeles/Long Beach Harbor Employers Association expired.

Port officials said about 30 OCU members showed up at the ports Thursday morning to man pickets.

While ILWU dock workers pledged to honor the OCU pickets, a local arbitrator ruled early Thursday morning that the OCU did not bargain in good faith and prohibited dockers from honoring the clerical workers' picket lines.

The OCU union local, an entity unique to Southern California, is part of the area’s larger ILWU dockworker union. However, the unit negotiates its contract directly with Los Angeles and Long Beach-area maritime employers and not through the Pacific Maritime Association, which represents the interests of West Coast maritime firms in negotiations with the parent ILWU union. The OCU represents mainly “white-collar” office and clerical workers in the “off-port” offices of maritime companies. OCU Local 63 represents more than 900 workers for 17 shipping companies and terminal operators at the ports. The current contract talks, however, only covers members at the 14 area firms.

The OCU offered a final contract proposal to employers late Wednesday evening which represented a total wage and benefit cost increase of 32 percent for the employers over the three-year life of the proposed contract, according to officials with Harbor Employers Association.

The arbitrator determined that the OCU, in proposing a contract with such large increases only hours before the current contract deadline, was negotiating in bad faith with employers. A counter proposal from the employers offered $1-an-hour increase over six years and a 10 percent increase in pensions.

The previous contract, according to the HEA, made OCU members the highest paid clerical workers in the nation, with an average annual salary of nearly $97,000 and annual benefits worth nearly $66,000.

While no new talks were scheduled for Thursday, both sides have said they are confident an agreement can be reached.

During the last OCU contract negotiations in 2007, members of Local 63's OCU approved a strike and though the contract expiration deadline passed, never took to the picket lines. The OCU and employers eventually reached an agreement in late August 2007 on the three-year contract that expired at midnight Wednesday.