The Pacific Maritime Association (PMA) announced on February 11th that its members would halt cargo-handling operations at Pacific coast terminals for four upcoming days.
In response the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) says: “This is an effort by the employers to put economic pressure on our members and to gain leverage in contract talks.”
In a statement the PMA said: “ In light of ongoing and costly ILWU slowdowns, PMA members will temporarily suspend premium-pay weekend and holiday vessel operations on four upcoming dates, while yard, gate and rail operations will continue at terminal operators’ discretion. In Southern California, terminal operators will expand daytime vessel operations on non-holiday weekdays. “
“Last week, PMA made a comprehensive contract offer designed to bring these talks to conclusion,” said PMA spokesman Wade Gates. “The ILWU responded with demands they knew we could not meet, and continued slowdowns that will soon bring West Coast ports to gridlock. What they’re doing amounts to a strike with pay, and we will reduce the extent to which we pay premium rates for such a strike.”
Gates said, “that while the ILWU has claimed that the parties are ‘this close,’ they continue to push demands that would cripple the West Coast waterfront. In particular, the Union is demanding the right to fire any arbitrator who rules against them at the end of each contract period, even though those arbitrators are the referees who keep West Coast ports operating smoothly. During the 2008 – 2014 contract period, the four area arbitrators found the ILWU guilty of more than 200 slowdowns or work stoppages.”
In response the ILWU issued a statement saying that the PMA’s “action marks the second time in less than a week that employers have idled vessels.”
The statement added, “The same group …cancelled a negotiating session scheduled today (February 11th) for 1pm with the ILWU’s Negotiating Committee. The employers have not made themselves available to negotiate since Friday of last week. “
“This is an effort by the employers to put economic pressure on our members and to gain leverage in contract talks,” said ILWU President Robert McEllrath. “The Union is standing by ready to negotiate, as we have been for the past several days.”
The ILWU charged that the “ PMA’s public relations firm issued a press release that grossly mischaracterizes the ILWU’s current bargaining position.”
“It seems to us that the employers are trying to sabotage negotiations,” said McEllrath.
“They are not just hurting workers, families and communities,” he said, “What our employers are doing is bad for the industry and the US economy.”