U.S.: Pacific Maritime Association makes "all-in" offer to ILWU
West Coast ports have been experiencing severe congestion over recent months, and PMA president James McKenna said in a video released yesterday that a "coast-wide meltdown" was just "a week or two away."
In a release, the PMA said full-time ILWU workers already earned an average of US$147,000 per year, and would see their wages rise 'roughly 3 percent' per year, along with fully paid health care that costs employers US$35,000 per worker per year.
The maximum ILWU pension would also rise to US$88,800 per year, as part of the proposed five-year contract.
The PMA added that its offer was designed to bring contract negotiations to a close after nearly nine months, and followed "three months of severe ILWU slowdowns that have crippled productivity at major West Coast ports."
"Our members have shown tremendous restraint in the face of ILWU slowdowns that have cut productivity by as much as 30, 40, even 50 percent," McKenna said in the release.
"This offer puts us all-in as we seek to wrap up these contract talks and return our ports to normal operations."
The PMA said its offer also met the ILWU's demands of maintenance of their Cadillac health benefits, as well as jurisdiction over maintenance and repair of truck chassis.
The resulting contract offer calls for a cost increase of about 5% each year over the life of the five-year contract, the PMA said.
"Given the generous offer, the continuing work slowdowns by the ILWU, and our earnest attempt over the last nine months to bargain well beyond our comfort zone, the PMA has concluded that the latest offer is as far as we can go at this point," McKenna said in the video.
"Now the PMA must decide how much longer we are going to pay longshore workers to work slowly. These slowdowns are having the same result as a worker strike, except that workers are still getting a paycheck."
The ILWU has responded to the PMA by urging them to finish the negotiations and not to close ports over "a few remaining issues".
In a statement, the union said it was trying to keep dock employers at the negotiating table to finish an agreement that was "extremely close".
"We've dropped almost all of our remaining issues to help get this settled - and the few issues that remain can be easily resolved," ILWU president Robert McEllrath said.
The statement also said the ILWU had pledged to keep the ports open and keep the cargo flowing, "despite the massive, employer-caused crisis that has delayed shipping for most of 2014."
The ILWU added this was the "second time in recent memory" that the employers had threatened to close ports at the final stages of negotiations.
"Closing the ports at this point would be reckless and irresponsible," McEllrath said, adding that the major powers on the employer side were foreign-owned multi-national corporations.
"These foreign-owned companies make billions of dollars and pay their executives millions to do their bidding," he said.
Photo: Port of Long Beach, via Wikimedia Creative Commons