Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Weekend Lockout Halts West Coast Port Operations

By Mark Edward Nero

Work at seaports along the West Coast resumed on Monday after the group that represents terminal operators and shipping lines instituted a two-day stoppage by that halted operations last weekend.

The action was taken, according to the Pacific Maritime Association, in response to an ongoing work slowdown at the ports by the International Longshore & Warehouse Union that allegedly began in late October.

“After three months of union slowdowns, it makes no sense to pay extra for less work,” PMA spokesman Wade Gates said in a prepared statement. “Especially if there is no end in sight to the union’s actions, which needlessly brought West Coast ports to the brink of gridlock.”

Last weekend vessel loading and unloading were halted, but each terminal operator had the discretion of whether to continue yard, rail and gate operations such as the processing of containers for truck and rail delivery to customers. The ILWU has repeatedly denied the slowdown allegations, instead blaming port congestion issues on larger vessels bringing in an ever-increasing number of containers, plus a shortage of the chassis’ used to haul the containers to and from the port terminals.

In a Feb. 9 statement, the union expressed a desire to reach a deal with the PMA.

“West Coast ports re-opened Monday morning after employers closed the docks for two days, increasing delays for customers needing containers,” the ILWU said in a Feb. 9 statement. “The union remains focused on reaching a settlement as quickly as possible.”

Talks to resolve the few remaining issues between the Longshore Union and Pacific Maritime Association are “ongoing,” according to the ILWU.

The PMA and ILWU have been in negotiations since May 2014. 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 last July 1.

The PMA warned the union on Feb. 4 that it could impose a full lockout within 10 days if no contract agreement is reached by then.