West Coast Ports To Suspend Operations
The Pacific Maritime Association (PMA) today said that weekend vessel loading and unloading operations will be temporarily suspended at U.S. West Coast ports with yard, rail and gate operations “continuing at terminal operators’ discretion.” According to a statement released by the PMA, the move came “in light of ongoing union slowdowns up and down the coast which have brought the ports almost to a standstill, PMA member companies finally have concluded that they will no longer continue to pay workers premium pay for diminished productivity.”
Vessel operations are scheduled to resume Monday, February 9. Yard operations—that is, moving processed containers for truck and rail delivery to customers—“will continue at terminal operators’ discretion, although the ILWU continues to limit operations by withholding the needed crane operators or operating slowly,” the San Francisco-based management group said.
“After three months of union slowdowns, it makes no sense to pay extra for less work,” said PMA spokesman Wade Gates, “especially if there is no end in sight to the union’s actions which needlessly brought West Coast ports to the brink of gridlock.”
The National Retail Federation (NRF), the largest retail industry group in the country, immediately issued a response to the move with its vice president for Supply Chain, Jonathan Gold. Temporarily suspending port operations, he said, “is just another example of the International Longshore & Warehouse Union and Pacific Maritime Association shooting themselves in the collective bargaining foot. The continuing slowdowns and increasing congestion at West Coast ports are bringing the fears of a port shutdown closer to a reality.”
The entire the supply chain, from agriculture to manufacturing and retail to transportation, said Gold, “has been dealing with the lack of a West Coast port contract for the last nine months. … Enough is enough. The escalating rhetoric, the threats, the dueling press releases and the inability to find common ground between the two sides are simply driving up the cost of products, jeopardizing American jobs and threatening the long-term viability of businesses large and small.”
The NRF’s message to both the ILWU and PMA, said Gold: “Stop holding the supply-chain community hostage. Get back to the negotiating table, work with the federal mediator and agree on a new labor contract.”