By Mark Edward Nero
The Pacific Maritime Association and International Longshore and Warehouse Union said in late September that they’ve agreed to discuss the concept of a contract extension less than halfway into the current five-year contract.
The talks have been tentatively scheduled for Nov. 1 and 2.
“No additional comments from either party will be made prior to the talks. Following the talks, a statement may be issued,” both sides said in a Sept. 27 joint statement.
The early start to talks would be a significant change from the last time the two sides negotiated a contract.
Talks in 2014 didn’t begin until a few weeks before the contract’s expiration, and then, as talks dragged on for nine months, the contract expired and remained that way for several months, until an agreement was finally reached in the first quarter of 2015.
It was the PMA employer group that made the initial request this past summer to discuss the possibility of an extension to the 2014-2019 collective bargaining agreement. After the request was made, more than 100 union delegates representing ports from San Diego to Bellingham, Washington convened in August to consider and eventually approve the request.
With the consent given, union leadership will now meet with the PMA next month, then report the initial results back to membership.
“This is a directive to go and have discussions with the PMA and report back to the membership, and we’ll do just that, with the wellbeing of the rank and file, our communities, and the nation in mind,” ILWU International President Robert McEllrath said after the August vote.
The current contract, which covers labor at 29 West Coast ports, doesn’t expire until July 1, 2019.