Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Grain Shippers, Union Extend Contract Talks

The Pacific Northwest Grain Handlers Association, a consortium of Northwest grain shippers, has said it has agreed to temporarily extend its expiring contract with the International Longshore and Warehouse Union.

The contract between the groups was set to expire Sept. 30, but the grain handlers group announced Sept. 28 that it had agreed with the union to push the expiration date back two weeks.

“The parties have agreed to continue bargaining and have scheduled a number of sessions between now and the middle of October,” according to a Grain Handlers Association statement.

The Pacific Northwest Grain Handlers Association represents four companies: Columbia Grain, which operates a Port of Portland terminal; United Grain Corp., which has an export terminal at the Port of Vancouver in Washington; LD Commodities, operator of facilities in Portland and Seattle; and TEMCO, which has facilities in Kalama, Portland and Tacoma.

The association began negotiations with the union involving Puget Sound terminals and operations on the Columbia River in early September. The owners group has said it wants a contract similar to what was worked out between management and longshore workers at the Port of Longview earlier this year for the port’s EGT grain terminal. The contract includes several cost-saving workplace rules.

There have been no reported labor disruptions so far, but stakes in the negotiations are high; Pacific Northwest terminals are a major exporter of grain in the US barring a work interruption caused by labor issues, facilities in Oregon and Washington are expected to ship out nearly half of 33 million metric tons of wheat to other countries this year.