Friday, November 30, 2012

ILWU Strike Cripples LA, Long Beach Ports

After failing to reach a contract after more than two years of negotiations with a management group representing international carriers and terminal operators, members of an International Longshore and Warehouse Union clerical division have gone on strike.

ILWU Local 63, a clerical unit with about 800 members, began the labor action at noon Nov. 27 at Pier 400 in the Port of Los Angeles and later spread to the other seven port terminals over the course of the following 24 hours.

As of Nov. 29, three of the six container terminals at the adjoining Port of Long Beach – Long Beach Container Terminal at Pier F, International Transportation Service at Pier G and Total Terminals International at Pier T – were also not operational due to union picketing.

The union members have been working without a contract since their three-year pact with management expired June 30, 2010. Negotiations had been ongoing until this week. Union leadership contends that management wants to outsource work to other countries.

"It’s not about wages and benefits, it’s about outsourcing and the future of good jobs in America and our Harbor communities," Local 63 President John Fageaux said. "We just reached the point where somebody had to stand up and draw the line against outsourcing, because these companies will eventually take all the good jobs."

The ILWU specifically opposes technology that would allow customers to directly access booking information, saying it could lead to the outsourcing of jobs. However, the employers’ group, which is comprised of 14 shippers and terminal operators in and around the port complex, says implementation of new technology is needed to improve efficiency.

Fageaux said that the Los Angeles Harbor community has lost over 50 permanent positions over the past years and that maritime companies have announced plans to eliminate another 76 in the future.
"The jobs here come with excellent wages and benefits – but they’ll eventually disappear if companies keep outsourcing them to India and Taiwan," Trinie Thompson, a Port of Los Angeles logistics clerk said.

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.

Union, Grain Handlers Association Talks Break Down

Contract talks between the Pacific Northwest Grain Handlers Association and a union representing dockworkers across the Pacific Northwest have broken down, but both sides say they don’t anticipate a strike or lockout in the near term.

The owners group had given the International Longshore and Warehouse Union until the clock struck midnight on Nov. 29 to accept what they said was their final offer on a deal. But ownership spokesman Pat McCormick has said no lockout is planned.

The 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, weeks prior to the previous contract’s Sept. 30 expiration date.

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.

However, the union says it won’t budge on some concessions the owners want, such as 12-hour work shifts, an ability to bypass the union hiring hall and being given greater control over the ability to fire dockworkers.

Despite the increasingly contentious negotiations, no labor disruptions have been reported at any of the affected terminals so far. A union source however, has said plans are underway to organize boat pickets on the Columbia and Willamette rivers if a lockout does occur.

Port of Longview Director Official Retirement Date Confirmed

Port of Longview Executive Director Ken O’Hollaren, who announced in December 2011 that he would be retiring the following year, now has an official departure date: Dec. 31.

O’Hollaren, who joined the port as assistant operations manager in 1980, has been its executive director since January 1988, making him the longest-tenured port director in Washington state, and one of the longest-tenured maritime executives on the West Coast.

On July 18, the three-member Port of Longview Commission voted to hire Geir Kalhagen, the general manager for the Pacific Northwest office of Tidal Transport and Trade, as the port’s new chief executive.

Before joining Tidal Transport and Trade in June 2010, Kalhagen spent 15 months as an operations manager with Grieg Star Shipping; from December 2007 to January 2009 he was an operations manager with Star Forest Carriers PTE Singapore.

Since September, O’Hollaren has been assisting Kalhagen in making the transition to his new role, but port officials confirmed last week that O’Hollaren would be departing at the end of the year.

Port officials have said the port commission plans to recognize O’Hollaren’s tenure during its Dec. 14 meeting.

Port of Woodland Approves 2013 Budget

The Port of Woodland, Washington Commission has approved the port’s final 2013, and it includes a modest projection of revenue growth.

The port’s total 2013 budget is $1.08 million, with the largest expenditure budgeted for debt repayment, $389,874. Salaries and benefits and associated expenses are budgeted at $187,102 and $89,000 is planned for building and property maintenance.

By comparison, the port’s 2012 budget was $1.06 million.

"The commissioners and staff are committed to running the port as efficiently as possible, this budget – as with others – reflects that commitment," Executive Director Nelson Holmberg said.

Of the total $1,081,478 in projected revenue, nearly 82 percent comes from leases of port buildings and properties and the sales of sand, with 18.5 percent coming from taxes.

For the fifth straight year, the port’s budget doesn’t include an increase in the port’s portion of the property tax. In the 2013 budget, the port’s share of property taxes collected in the Woodland Port District remains at $200,000, which is the same amount as the 2012 budget. That equates to roughly 18.7 cents per $1,000 of assessed value, far below the maximum 45 cents per $1,000 allowed to ports under Washington state law.

The 52-year-old port owns more than 300 acres of property in south Cowlitz County along the Columbia and Lewis rivers.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Port, Security Guards Reach Deal; Strike Averted

The Port of Portland and the union representing its 25 security officers reached a contract agreement on Nov. 24, averting a strike that had been planned to begin hours later.

“We are very pleased that an agreement was reached,” port Executive Director Bill Wyatt said in a prepared statement. “The port feels its contract proposal was not only fair but generous.”

The port’s new deal with International Longshore and Warehouse Union Local 28 covers wages, benefits and working conditions and would expire in June of 2015. It prevents the outsourcing of jobs at two of the port’s three marine terminals, according to the union.

“We took a stand against the outsourcing because Portland working families can’t afford to lose any more good-paying jobs,” Angie Dahlgren, a security officer who served as chair of her union negotiating committee, said.

Although the parameters have been agreed to by both parties, it is still subject to a ratification vote by the union local’s full membership.

The agreement was reached just 12 hours before the union had planned to launch a 6 a.m. Nov. 25 strike. Such a labor action likely would have been an economic disaster for the port, as temporary closures of the port’s marine terminals would have meant the turning away of any ships that had been scheduled to pick up or drop off millions of dollars in cargo.

The escalating situation led to Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber getting involved last week by urging the two sides to come to an agreement. Ultimately, they were able to do so with the aid of Oregon state conciliator Robert Nightingale, making this his last big project. Nightingale has said he plans to retire at the end of 2012 at the age of 66.