Friday, March 13, 2015

Labor Dispute Closes Oakland’s SSA Terminal

By Mark Edward Nero

Just days after the Port of Oakland declared that it was making significant progress on clearing a cargo backlog that built up during months of labor unrest, operations at a container terminal came to a halt on March 11 due to labor issues.

According to the port and the International Longshore & Warehouse Union, yard and gate operations at Oakland International Container Terminal, which is operated by SSA Terminals, were ceased around 10:30 am Wednesday morning due to a dispute.

SSA Terminals said that it has dismissed longshore workers after they refused to work due to a dispute over staffing levels. The ILWU claims that 45 dockworkers were fired and sent home.

In a statement issued on SSA’s behalf, the Pacific Maritime Association said the incident was caused by the ILWU local refusing to adhere to standard operating protocol.

“The terminal in question follows standard industry practice of hiring two workers for every yard crane – the same as at every other terminal at the port,” the statement reads in part. “Yet, ILWU Local 10 is refusing to allow yard cranes to operate unless that number is increased to three.”

The PMA’s statement also says that the three-person demand was something that Local 10 made, but then dropped during the nine months of negotiations between the union and PMA that ended in February with a tentative five-year contract for workers and management at 29 West Coast seaports.

The Maritime Association claims Local 10 has also refused to allow longshore utility workers to lock and unlock connecting devices between chassis and containers, something that the PMA calls a “longstanding practice at every terminal in the port.”

All marine terminals were open and active as of 8 am on March 12, according to the port.

On March 6, the Port of Oakland touted its success in reducing a cargo backlog caused in part by the nine months of labor unrest, saying that signs of progress included a declining vessel backup; decongested terminals; improved transaction times; and better terminal productivity.