Shippers Steam as Port Negotiators Take a Thanksgiving Break
Los Angeles, CA – The International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) is being slammed for refusing to hold “big table” West Coast labor contract talks during a 12-day break that extends through the Thanksgiving weekend.
“Three weeks after initiating a coordinated series of slowdowns that have plagued the major West Coast ports of Tacoma, Seattle, Oakland, Los Angeles and Long Beach, the International Longshore and Warehouse Union has now taken its slowdown tactics to the bargaining table,” the Pacific Maritime Association (PMA), the other party in the negotiations, said in an angry statement.
As a result of the ILWU’s decision, the PMA said, “the only bargaining through December 1 will be limited to subcommittees discussing “limited” issues.
No Contract Extension
“Making matters worse, the ILWU is refusing to agree to a temporary contract extension – similar to one it signed over the summer – despite multiple requests,” the PMA said.
A contract extension, the PMA said, “would give both parties access to the well-established waterfront grievance process, and most notably would give employers recourse for the ILWU slowdowns that are continuing.”
The Thanksgiving break “and the Union’s refusal to extend the contract are taking place amid continuing worker slowdowns, which began on Halloween in Tacoma and soon spread to Seattle, Oakland, Los Angeles and Long Beach.”
In some ports, the PMA charged, “productivity remains 30 percent or more below normal, as a result of orchestrated ILWU maneuvers.”
This productivity loss, it said, “is distinct” from the congestion that has caused severe congestion at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach.
“In fact, those two ports were the only major West Coast ports that experienced congestion prior to ILWU slowdowns, and the ILWU has knowingly made the situation in Southern California worse by failing to dispatch qualified crane operators per longstanding practice – the same skilled workers who can help to alleviate yard congestion,” the PMA said.
National Retail Federation Responds
In reaction to the break in contract talks, the National Retail Federation (NRF) is repeating its call on the White House “to immediately engage the parties to get them back to the negotiating table.”
According to a statement from NRF President and CEO Matthew Shay, “After six months of negotiations we have seen very little progress. It’s time the parties accept a federal mediator to help them bridge the gaps and arrive at a new contract.
Without a contract, he said, “stakeholders cannot work on addressing the ongoing congestion issues at the ports.
The nation’s retailers and our vendors, suppliers and customers are counting on the two parties to act responsibly.”
Earlier this year, NRF and the National Association of Manufacturers released a report that found a shutdown at 29 U.S. West Coast ports from Seattle to San Diego would cost the economy about $2 billion a day.