Friday, February 13, 2015

PMA Shutting Terminal Ops for 4 Days

By Mark Edward Nero

The Pacific Maritime Association is suspending vessel operations at port cargo terminals for four days, beginning Feb. 12, with the explanation being that it didn’t want to give weekend and holiday pay to longshore workers during President’s Day weekend.

Weekend and holiday pay rates command a premium of at least 50 percent more than the basic longshore wage rate, according to the PMA, which would mean those working those days would have received between $54 and $75 per hour for longshore workers and clerks and between $77 and $92 per hour for foremen.

“PMA members have concluded that they will not conduct vessel operations on those dates, paying full shifts of ILWU workers such high rates for severely diminished productivity while the backlog of cargo at West Coast ports grows,” the association, which represents terminal operators, said in a Feb. 11 statement.

The four dates affected by the suspension of vessel operations are: Thurs. Feb. 12 (Lincoln’s Birthday); Sat., Feb. 14; Sun., Feb. 15; and Mon., Feb. 16 (Washington’s Birthday). However, yard, gate and rail operations are expected to continue at the terminal operators’ discretion as they did the previous weekend when the PMA also temporarily halted vessel operations as part of the ongoing dispute.

“This is an effort by the employers to put economic pressure on our members and to gain leverage in contract talks,” ILWU President Robert McEllrath said of the four-day lockout.

The maritime association and labor union have been locked in contract talks since May 2014 and the previous six-year deal expired July 1. And although a federal arbitrator joined the talks in January, a final resolution does not appear to be near.

On Feb. 4, the PMA revealed it had made the union an offer that would raise ILWU wages by 14 percent over five years, on top of current average full-time wages of $147,000 per year and would maintain fully employer-paid health care, plus increase the ILWU pension to as much as $88,800 per year. The ILWU, while not commenting on specifics on the contract offer, has said the two sides are close to an agreement.