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USWC longshore contract talks resume while terminal disruptions continue

Date :23-05-05 Vsits : 191


West Coast longshore labor negotiations resumed Tuesday after a four-day hiatus even as International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) locals continued to slow cargo handling at some terminals up and down the coast. 

Two sources close to the situation told the Journal of Commerce that while the tactics employed by ILWU local members are the same as last week — withholding labor from hiring halls or slashing productivity on cranes — the terminals being targeted change from day to day. 

“Some way, somehow, we’re all being hit,” one source said.  

The resumption of negotiations at the coast level in San Francisco is viewed by employers as a positive sign because the Pacific Maritime Association (PMA), which represents shipping lines and terminal operators in the contract talks, had reportedly indicated when talks broke off last Thursday that negotiations would only resume once job action by the union ceased. 

“The good news today is that we’re getting labor,” the source said. “The bad news is that vessel productivity is bad.”  

The PMA and ILWU declined to comment Tuesday. 

A second source said Tuesday that ILWU locals in Seattle-Tacoma and Oakland were slowing down cargo-handling operations, although not to the extent of what was occurring in Southern California. 

The disruptions happening now are a repeat of events in April when ILWU locals up and down the coast slowed cargo handling to gain leverage on local issues, which prevented coastwide negotiators from addressing broader issues such as wages and pension benefits. The job actions ceased for about a month when the local issues were resolved, allowing the PMA and ILWU to begin discussing wages in May. 

But the job actions resumed last week when it became obvious the two sides remained far apart on the wage issue. The ILWU is reportedly demanding close to a 100% increase in straight-time hourly wages. The current hourly wage is slightly above $47 per hour, and the ILWU is reportedly demanding a $7.50-per-hour increase for each year of what would be a new six-year contract, amounting to a hike of $45 per hour. Over the past 20 years, annual wage increases were generally in the range of 50 cents to $1.50 an hour for each year of the deal, according to the PMA annual report.  

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