Thursday, June 28, 2012

More Ships Could Bypass Portland to Avoid Dispute

The ongoing labor dispute at the Port of Portland’s Terminal 6, which has already led to multiple container ships bypassing the port in order to avoid the situation, could lead to more vessels heading elsewhere in the upcoming days and weeks.

The Cape Manila, a 696-foot container ship, is scheduled to arrive at Terminal 6 on July 4, but the vessel’s operator, Hapag-Lloyd, has said that it will decide on a week-to-week basis whether to call at Portland. A spokesman for the company informed media outlets June 28 that it was closely monitoring the situation.

German-based Hapag-Lloyd and South Korean company Hanjin had both previously said they would divert their ships to other ports during the dispute.

The conflict involves International Longshore and Warehouse Union Local 8 attempting to claim work at Terminal 6 that has historically been performed by another union – the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers.

The disputed jobs involve plugging/unplugging and monitoring refrigerated containers. Although the ILWU has filed a motion with the District Council of Trade Unions that says its contract with the Pacific Maritime Association requires the terminal operator to hire longshore workers, the work in question at Terminal 6 has been performed since the early 1970s by the IBEW under a collective bargaining agreement with the port launched at commencement of terminal operations.

When the port transitioned control of container terminal operations to ICTSI Oregon in 2001 under a 25-year lease, continuation of the IBEW work was included in the lease terms.

The dispute has coincided over the past few weeks with a noticeable backup of operations at the terminal, leading to accusations by the National Labor Relations Board of an orchestrated slowdown campaign by the longshore union, charges the ILWU denies.

A federal judge on June 22 ordered the port and terminal operator ICTSI Oregon to enter settlement negotiations with the union; talks are still ongoing.