Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Strike Continues at LA/Long Beach Ports

Despite a resumption of negotiations in recent days, a strike by longshore clerks is still ongoing at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach and most terminals at the ports remain closed.

As of 8 a.m. Tues., Dec. 4, operations are still shut at seven of the eight terminals at the Port of Los Angeles, and three of the six container terminals at the Port of Long Beach remained closed: Long Beach Container Terminal at Pier F, International Transportation Service at Pier G and Total Terminals International at Pier T.

Three other Long Beach terminals, however -- SSAT at Pier A, SSAT/Matson at Pier C and Pacific Container Terminal at Pier J – are still operational.

The negotiating parties are the Harbor Employers Association, which negotiates for shippers and terminal operators, and International Longshore and Warehouse Union Local 63, which represents about 800 clerical workers.

The strike began at noon Nov. 27 and is now entering its second week. Talks aimed at resolving the situation resumed Nov. 29 and remain ongoing, according to both sides. The union members have been working without a contract since their three-year pact with management expired June 30, 2010.

The main sticking point in negotiations hasn’t been wages, but outsourcing. The union contends that management wants to implement new technology that would lead to fewer human workers being necessary. The ILWU specifically opposes technology that would allow customers to directly access booking information, saying it could lead to the outsourcing of jobs.

But the employers’ group, which is comprised of 14 shippers and terminal operators in and around the port complex, maintains that implementation of new technology is needed to improve efficiency.
On Dec. 2, the employers’ association announced that the union had rejected its latest contract offer, which includes wage and pension increases, guarantees against layoffs, and a requirement that employers call in temporary workers and hire new employees even if there is no work for those individuals to perform.

The union however, maintains that job security is paramount and that the employers have refused to include language in the contract specifying that workers will not be laid off.

The strike is estimated to cost the port complex about $1 billion a day. Over the course of the first week of the strike, at least 18 ships were turned away and diverted to other West Coast ports, including ports in Oakland and Mexico.

Although Local 63 only has 800 members, the strike is being honored by its much larger sister, Local 13, which has about 7,000 registered members and represents almost 20,000 part- and full-time longshore workers who discharge cargo at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach.