Just days after the U.S. West Coast port operator and the workers’ union ratified a new contract following protracted negotiations, fresh accusations of an isolated work stoppage have emerged.
The Pacific Maritime Association (PMA) claimed officials from the International Longshore and Warehouse Union’s (ILWU) Local 34 at the Port of Oakland refused to dispatch workers for the second shift on Sunday (May 31), causing a shutdown of the port’s terminal operations.
The PMA said the ILWU’s work stoppage occurred after the PMA informed Local 34 officials on Wednesday, May 27, that the new dispatch process would be put in place beginning with the second shift on Sunday.
Its implementation was initially scheduled for the prior weekend but was postponed to the 31st by mutual agreement so as not to complicate dispatch during the Memorial Day weekend, the group said.
In short, the dispatch process outlines times by which labor orders must be placed.
According to the PMA, after the ILWU ‘failed to adhere to the new dispatch procedures’ for vessel operations for the second shift on Sunday, the PMA took the matter to an area arbitrator who ruled that ILWU officials and dispatchers took a unilateral action in violation of the agreement.
The arbitrator further instructed the ILWU to accept and dispatch employers’ labor orders. The arbitrator also ruled that the ILWU reneged on an agreement to work around the dispute, the PMA said.
Negotiations for the new contract lasted for several months until an agreement was reached in February, and resulted in severe congestion throughout much of the U.S. West Coast.
“This is the third work stoppage caused by the ILWU in Oakland in just over a week,” the PMA release said.
“By sanctioning illegal work stoppages, the local ILWU leaders are not just violating the new contract, but are disrespecting the truckers, local residents and small businesses whose livelihoods depend on the efficient and reliable movement of cargo through the port.”
PMA spokesperson Wade Gates claimed the ILWU in Oakland had a ‘long history of taking unilateral actions’ that disrupt ongoing cargo operations.
“We have a new coastwise contract in place that was recently ratified by both parties, a new understanding in Oakland on dispatch and an arbitrator’s ruling finding the ILWU in violation of that new understanding,” Gates said.
“It’s time for the ILWU leaders in Oakland to recognize these facts, follow the provisions of the new agreement and join us in regaining the shipping community’s confidence in West Coast ports.”
The PMA reported that labor orders were properly processed for the first shift on Monday, and operations at the Port of Oakland were currently normal.
At the time of writing, the ILWU Local 34 had not responded to request for comment.
Photo: Port of Oakland, via Wikimedia Creative Commons