Friday, February 6, 2015

PMA Threatens Lockout, ILWU Says Deal Close

By Mark Edward Nero

The International Longshore & Warehouse Union says that a deal with the Pacific Maritime Association on a new labor contract is “imminent” and urged the PMA to not walk away from negotiations and impose a lockout as the employers’ group has said it might do within a week.

“We’re this close,” ILWU President Robert McEllrath said of negotiations. “We’ve dropped almost all of our remaining issues to help get this settled – and the few issues that remain can be easily resolved.”

“Closing the ports at this point would be reckless and irresponsible,” McEllrath said, stating that if the PMA closes the ports, “the public will suffer and corporate greed will prevail.”

The statement was a response to an “all-in” contract offer made by the PMA on Feb. 4 that suggested that the employers group could lock workers out if no deal is reached in the next five to 10 days.

According to the PMA’s latest contract offer, full-time ILWU workers would see their wages rise roughly three percent per year under the proposed five-year contract. The proposal also includes a provision allowing dockworkers to keep their current fully paid health care, which the employers’ group says costs employers $35,000 per worker per year.

Also, the PMA says, the maximum ILWU pension would rise to $88,800 per year.

“I hope the ILWU leadership will give very serious consideration to this contract offer, which I believe respects their members and gives us a clear path to conclude these talks,” PMA President Jim McKenna said. “We owe it to workers and businesses across the nation to resolve our differences and get our ports moving again.”

The PMA and ILWU have been engaged in contract negotiations since May. The previous six-year labor pact between the two sides, which covered almost 20,000 longshore workers at 29 ports up and down the West Coast, expired at 5 pm on July 1, 2014.

The PMA and union have already come to an agreement on some key issues, including jurisdiction over maintenance and repair of the truck chassis used to haul containerized goods to and from cargo terminals, the two sides remain apart on other issues, including wages and health & benefits.