Tuesday, October 14, 2014

NRF Urges PMA, ILWU to Agree

By Mark Edward Nero

Six months after it sent a letter to the Pacific Maritime Association and International Longshore & Warehouse Union urging them to hammer out a labor contract, the National Retail Federation has done so again.

In a letter sent to both management and labor, NRF President and CEO Matt Shay said “the lack of a new labor contract between PMA and the ILWU is having a big impact on port productivity, particularly in Southern California.”

He also suggested that at a minimum, both parties should extend the expired contract through November “in order to reinstate arbitration agreements, which are preventing many issues at the ports from being addressed.”

“Finalizing a new labor contract is an absolutely critical component to working through the backlog of shipping containers now piling up at West Coast ports,” Shay wrote. “We are deeply troubled by the fact that no apparent progress has been made in the negotiations since August, when the PMA and ILWU announced a ‘tentative deal’ on health benefits.”

“Whether intentional or not,” Shay wrote, “the fact that neither the PMA nor ILWU has made any public progress report in more than a month is sending a very troublesome and disconcerting signal.”

The PMA and ILWU have been negotiating a new six-year contract since mid-May. 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 initially agreed to keep operating under the provisions of the recently expired contract.

The NRF’s Oct. 10 letter came six months after a mid-April letter to Pacific Maritime Association Chairman and CEO James McKenna and International Longshore & Warehouse Union President Robert McEllrath written on the behalf of the millions of businesses the NRF represents, urging the two sides to come to a quick agreement for the sake of the U.S. economy.