Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Oregon Gov. Awards Disputed Jobs to ILWU

Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber on Dec. 12 announced that a two-year dispute over specific work at the Port of Portland’s Terminal 6 has been resolved. The job of plugging in and unplugging refrigerated ships at the terminal is being assigned to International Longshore and Warehouse Union workers.

Historically the work, which involves plugging/unplugging and monitoring refrigerated containers at the terminal, had been performed by another union – the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers – since the early 1970s.

When the port transitioned control of terminal operations to ICTSI Oregon in 2011 under a 25-year lease, continuation of the IBEW work was included in the lease terms. However, the ILWU intervened, saying that its contract with the Pacific Maritime Association required the terminal operator to hire longshore workers.

The dispute led to work slowdowns by the ILWU in 2012, which in turn led to legal action by the port and National Labor Relations Board and an ILWU countersuit.

But according to Gov. Kitzhaber’s office, the Port of Portland and IBEW 48 have agreed to terms in transitioning the work from representation by IBEW Local 48 to workers represented by ILWU. Longshore union workers will perform the plugging and unplugging reefer ships as soon as the port’s able to contract with an ILWU employer for the work.

The agreement, however, neither impacts nor addresses the ongoing legal disputes between ILWU, ICTSI Oregon, the Pacific Maritime Association and the Port of Portland. The agreement settles the work assignment conflict “on a go-forward basis only,” according to the governor’s office.

However, as part of the agreement, the Port of Portland has said that no IBEW 48 members will lose work as a result, and that the electricians will be assigned other port-related duties. The port has also promised that future port-owned facilities would be serviced by Local 48, and the port and IBEW 48 will enter into a new apprenticeship arrangement to address the port’s long-term needs for skilled electricians.

The port currently employs about 60 Local 48 electricians, many of whom are approaching retirement age.

The Port of Portland’s also required provide weekly reports to the governor’s office regarding Terminal 6 productivity. The governor and his staff are to review the reports and intervene if needed, to maintain and improve terminal productivity.

“On behalf of the Port and the larger community of shippers and others who are concerned about the future of Terminal 6 and the vital role it plays in our regional economy, I want to thank the Governor for his leadership on this issue – it has been pivotal,” Port of Portland Executive Director Bill Wyatt said. “This doesn’t end all aspects of this dispute, but hopefully it is the beginning of the end.”