Tuesday, September 2, 2014

PMA, ILWU Reach Partial Agreement

By Mark Edward Nero

Although they’re still locked in negotiations, the Pacific Maritime Association and International Longshore and Warehouse Union say they’ve reached a tentative agreement on one aspect of their contract talks: health benefits.

In a joint statement released Aug. 26, the two sides said that the agreement on health benefits is subject to agreement on the other issues in the negotiations. The parties say they’ve agreed not to discuss the terms of the tentative agreement while negotiations continue.

“Maintenance of health benefits is an important part of the contract being negotiated between employers represented by the PMA and workers represented by the ILWU,” the joint statement reads in part.

Talks on a new labor pact began May 12 and are still ongoing.

The previous six-year labor pact, which covered almost 20,000 longshore workers at 29 ports up and down the West Coast, expired at 5 pm on July 1, but although no contract extension has been ratified, both sides have agreed to keep operating under the provisions of the recently expired contract for the time being.

Although there are no signs of a union strike or management lockout looming, there’s a history of contentious talks between the PMA and the ILWU, which represents dockworkers in California, Oregon and Washington.

Neither the 2008 or 2002 talks were resolved until after the contracts’ expirations. Last month, however, the ILWU ratified a new four-year collective bargaining agreement with several multinational grain companies that operate export terminals in the Pacific Northwest.