The Pacific Maritime Association (PMA) chief executive threatened to lockout longshore workers and shut down West Coast port operations if the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) does not immediately accept its contract terms.
“We have a responsibility to let people know of the critical place we’re at now,” said James McKenna, the association’s chief executive told reporters during a conference call on Wednesday, Feb. 4, 2015.
McKenna told reporters that if the union refuses its terms then shipping companies and terminal operators will shut down operations and lock workers out of West Coast ports within a week to ten days.
McKenna said the PMA’s contract proposal includes a five-year contract, a 3-percent salary increase, a pension benefit increase and an agreement that truck chassis repairs will continue to be done by ILWU members.
“The PMA has concluded the latest offer is the farthest we can go to this point,” McKenna said.
In response, the ILWU issued a statement on Wednesday indicating that it feels the two sides are close to an agreement and the threat of a shut down is unnecessary.
“We’re this close,” said ILWU President Robert McEllrath, who held up two fingers in a gesture indicating how close the parties are to reaching an agreement, according to the statement.
He added, “We’ve dropped almost all of our remaining issues to help get this settled - and the few issues that remain can be easily resolved.”
The statement went on to say that the ILWU pledged to keep the ports open and keep cargo flowing, despite what it describes as the “massive, employer-caused congestion crisis that has delayed shipping for most of 2014.”
The ILWU statement concluded by charging that the PMA threat of a work shut down is “the second time in recent memory that the employers have threatened to close ports at the final stages of negotiations. The union has not engaged in a port strike over the coast longshore contract since 1971, 44 years ago.”