Tuesday, August 14, 2012

NLRB Awards Portland Jobs to Electricians Union

The National Labor Relations Board has ruled that disputed jobs hooking and unhooking refrigerated containers at the Port of Portland’s Terminal 6 should go to union electricians, rather than a longshore workers union that had tried to commandeer the work.

In a five page decision issued Aug. 13, the three-member NLRB panel said that after reviewing all the information presented before it, it believed that the work in question should be performed by members of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, not the International Longshore and Warehouse Union.

The dispute dates back to 2011, when ICTSI Oregon entered into a 25-year agreement with the port to operate the dock at Terminal 6, and chose to honor a collective-bargaining agreement between the port and the District Council of Trade Unions, of which the IBEW is a member.

The IBEW has performed the work since operations began at the terminal in 1974.

The ILWU, however, began to claim that under the collective bargaining agreement between the ILWU and the Pacific Maritime Association – of which ICTSI is a member – longshoremen should be doing the work.

“After considering all the relevant factors, we conclude that employees represented by IBEW are entitled to perform the work in dispute,” the NLRB’s decision reads in part. “We reach this conclusion relying on the factors of collective-bargaining agreements and employer preference and past practice. We note that the factor of employer preference, although not itself determinative, is entitled to substantial weight.”

To that point, the board specifically cited the testimony of the Port of Portland’s chief commercial officer, Sam Ruda, who said officials insisted during negotiations with ICTSI that “work jurisdictions be maintained” when the new terminal operator took over the facility.

In June, a noticeable drop in productivity began, coinciding with the escalation of labor dispute. ICTSI Oregon and other stakeholders labeled a work slowdown by ILWU Local 8. Although the union denied it was engaging in a slowdown, a federal judge in July issued an indefinite injunction banning slowdowns pending the results of the NLRB investigation.

The labor issues had resulted in fewer vessel calls at the terminal the past two months, although two shippers, Hanjin and Hapag-Lloyd, resumed service at the port after having bypassed Terminal 6 multiple times earlier in the summer.

The ILWU has yet to confirm whether or not it plans to appeal the NLRB decision.