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  January 27th, 2015 | Written by

PMA, ILWU Reach Tentative Agreement on Container Chassis Maintenance

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Providing some light at the end of a very long tunnel, the Pacific Maritime Association (PMA) and the International Longshore & Warehouse Union (ILWU) have both tentatively agreed to a plan that puts the maintenance and repair of container chassis in the purview of the union. The new plan dismantles a major roadblock in the labor contract negotiations that have dragged on for more than eight months and caused unprecedented cargo congestion at U.S. West Coast ports.

The PMA serves as the contract negotiator for the ocean carriers and terminal operators that serve 29 seaports from Seattle to San Diego, while the ILWU represents the 20,000-plus dockworkers who load and unload cargo at the ports’ cargo facilities.

“The hope is that talks will now progress more quickly and that a coast-wide contract can be reached,” says PMA spokesman Steve Getzug, confirming that an agreement had been reached, but declining to provide specific details.

The longshore union had long desired the chassis-related, which are currently owned by third-party providers not covered by a ILWU labor contract.

“Hopefully this is the breakthrough that will lead to a final agreement between the PMA and ILWU. We need a settlement so that labor and management can focus once again on moving cargo quickly and reliably,” says Jon Slangerup, chief executive at the Port of Long Beach, commenting on the tentative chassis agreement.

The ports of both Long Beach and Los Angeles have taken the initiative to relieve the shortage, with Long Beach creating its own chassis fleet to augment usage during periods of peak container handling, and the neighboring Port of Los Angeles has established a common pool of more than 95,000 chassis maintained by a partnership of three major chassis providers and a terminal operator.

A shortage of container chassis has only exacerbated the labor issues being addressed during the labor talks and is a chronic issue at the ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles, the two busiest container ports in the U.S.

Although both the PMA and the ILWU came to an agreement on health benefits last summer and a federal mediator was recently appointed to referee the talks, the contract negotiations have taken an often rancorous tone with both sides trading broadsides and accusing the other of causing cargo-handling slowdowns at the ports.

The last PMA-ILWU contract, which spanned six years, expired last July 1.