Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Grain Terminal Labor Talks Again Break Down

After just one day of resumed talks, contract negotiations between the Pacific Northwest Grain Handlers’ Association and the International Longshore and Warehouse Union Locals 4, 8, 19, 21 and 23 have apparently broken down – again.

The Grain Handlers Association is negotiating for three companies: United Grain, which has an export terminal at the Port of Vancouver; Columbia Grain, which operates a Port of Portland terminal; and LD Commodities, operator of facilities in Portland and Seattle.

The association also represents TEMCO, a joint venture between Cargill and CHS that has facilities in Kalama, Portland and Tacoma. TEMCO and the union, however, reached a five-year contract agreement several weeks ago, under the stipulation that the agreement is subject to whatever agreement is finally reached with the whole group and is subject to modification in order to reflect an eventual agreement between the union and other Grain Handlers Association member companies.

On March 22, during the first bargaining session between two sides in months, the union offered the TEMCO deal to the other members of the multi-employer group. The employers’ group, however, declined to discuss the TEMCO agreement during the March 22 session, leading to a breakdown in talks, according to the union.

A March 23 negotiating session was cancelled and no future dates are scheduled, union spokeswoman Jennifer Sargent said.

The Grain Handlers Association’s began negotiations with the union in September 2012, seeking a contract similar to what was worked out between management and longshore workers at the Port of Longview in early 2012 for the port’s EGT grain terminal. The contract includes several cost-saving measures.

However, the ILWU has said it won’t budge on some concessions the owners have asked for, 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.