U.S.: Pacific Maritime Association requests federal mediation in port talks

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U.S.: Pacific Maritime Association requests federal mediation in port talks

The organization representing employers at 29 U.S. West Coast ports yesterday asked for federal mediation in its contract negotiations with the International Longshore & Warehouse Union (ILWU). Port_of_Oakland_Port_of_San_Francisco

In a release, the Pacific Maritime Association (PMA) said it had until now hoped both parties could reach a resolution without outside aid, but after the last back-and-forth talks it now believed outside intervention was necessary to bring about a conclusion.

It added the impact of the alleged ILWU work slowdowns disrupting cargo movement at the ports of Tacoma, Seattle, Oakland, Los Angeles and Long Beach increased the need for a hasty resolution.

"After seven months of negotiations, we remain far apart on many issues," PMA spokesman Wade Gates said.

"At the same time, the union continues its slowdowns, walk-offs and other actions that are having impacts on shippers, truck drivers and other local workers – with no end in sight. It is clear that the parties need outside assistance to bridge the substantial gap between us."

According to a recent industry survey conducted by the Journal of Commerce, 60 percent of shippers have already rerouted cargos for 2015 away from the West Coast to avoid the problems, with some shippers saying their diversions will be permanent.

The PMA release added the alleged ILWU slowdown tactics had reduced productivity at Pacific Northwest ports for more than a month and a half.

The organization also claimed that intermittent walk-offs had occurred in Oakland, and at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach the ILWU had restricted dispatching skilled crane operators to operate yard cranes - among the most important jobs to relieve congestion on the docks.

"We began negotiations seven months ago by underscoring everyone’s concerns about the West Coast loss of market share, which directly impacts local jobs and economies," Gates said.

"We emphasized our commitment to good-faith bargaining and the importance of ensuring that there were no disruptions or other actions that would cause shippers to lose confidence in the future of our ports.

"Unfortunately, the ILWU’s slowdowns are causing those concerns to grow, and it is clear we need outside intervention to allow us to reach consensus on the issues between us."

Photo: Port of Oakland, via Wikimedia Creative Commons


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