Los Angeles – The Pacific Maritime Association (PMA) and the International Longshoremen and Warehouse Union (ILWU) have resumed contract negotiations.
Both groups took a four-day break in the talks as ILWU representatives attended unrelated contract negotiations with grain handlers in the Pacific Northwest.
According to a joint statement, the talks, so far have been “productive” with both the PMA and the ILWU pledging to “keep cargo moving through US West Coast ports during the negotiations.”
The six-year contract between dockworkers and the employers who operate port terminal and shipping lines expired on July 1. It covers workers at 29 ports from San Diego, California to Bellingham, Washington.
In the weeks preceding the expiration of the original contract, businesses across the country, and overseas, were concerned about the possibility of a work stoppage that could have paralyzed the movement of cargo through US West Coast ports including the major container load centers in Los Angeles/Long Beach, Oakland, and Seattle/Tacoma.
In 2002, a breakdown in labor negotiations resulted in a 10-day lockout at the 29 ports that was estimated to have cost the US economy $1 billion a day with the supply chains of some companies seriously ‘kinked’ for up to six months afterwards.
At the time, a week before the July 1 expiration date, Jonathan Gold, vice president of supply chain and customs policy for the National Retail Federation (NRF), said, “Folks are nervous about what’s going to happen once the contract expires.”
The concern was underscored by the fact that, during the months of July through September, retailers such as Wal-Mart Stores Inc and Target Corp receive ocean shipments of goods sold during their critical back-to-school and holiday shopping seasons, he said.
Past experience shows that labor negotiations at West Coast ports typically extend beyond the contract expiration date with the current round of talks possibly extending into September, according to some sources.