West Coast ports contract expires July 2008

The Pacific Maritime Association (PMA) and the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) have agreed to pursue an early start to labor contact negotiations with the goal of reaching an agreement prior to the expiration of their current six-year labor pact in July 2008.

In a meeting Monday, PMA President Jim McKenna and ILWU President Robert McEllrath agreed to begin talks in early 2008, providing sufficient time to address substantive issues well in advance of the contract’s expiration.

The contract covers wages, benefits and conditions of employment for ILWU members working at 29 West Coast ports in California, Oregon and Washington. Together, these ports account for 12 percent of the nation’s GDP.

“The PMA and its member companies are committed to good faith negotiations with the ILWU that will result in a win-win contract for management, for workers and for the US economy,” said McKenna, whose organization represents cargo carriers, terminal operators and stevedores operating on the West Coast. “We’re pleased the ILWU has agreed to sit down with us early to pursue a waterfront contract agreement without interruption.”

“The ILWU is likewise committed to good faith negotiations and is hopeful that the parties can reach a conclusion to negotiations without transportation disruptions from either side. The ILWU workforce is committed to ensuring that West Coast Ports maintain high levels of productivity and fair benefits, wages and working conditions,” said McEllrath.

In the last four years, continuing demand for cargo has pushed West Coast ports to record volumes, while the registered workforce has increased by 38 percent-to a total of 14,279 workers. Further sustained growth is anticipated in containerized cargo imports to the West Coast-the primary gateway for cargo imports into the United States.