Friday, October 11, 2013

Grain Handlers, Union to Resume Contract Talks

After a year of on again, off again negotiations, contracts between the Pacific Northwest Grain Handlers’ Association and the International Longshore and Warehouse Union are set to resume again in the coming weeks.

Officials with the union and the PNGHA both say they’ll renew contract negotiations during meetings to be held soon. But as has been typical of the two sides, there was a disagreement on when the talks would occur.

During the Oct. 8 meeting of the Port of Vancouver USA Commission, ILWU Local 4 President Cager Clabaugh, revealed that talks are set to reopen Oct. 21 and 22. However, Grain Handlers Association spokesman Pat McCormick has said negotiations are set for late October and in November.

The talks would be the first formal ones for the two sides since a summit during late March in Vancouver ended badly after just one day. The two sides began negotiations in September 2012.

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 last spring.

On May 4, Columbia Grain, which is owned by Japanese trader Marubeni Corp, locked out its unionized workforce because, it claims, members of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union were purposefully engaging in a work slowdown at its Port of Portland terminal.

Similarly, United Grain indefinitely locked out its union dockworkers workers Feb. 27, 2013, after accusing a union official who worked there of sabotaging equipment in retaliation for contentious ongoing contract negotiations.