Pacific seaports face labor “no show”
Long-unresolved labor talks between West Coast seaport operators and the union serving them face a heightened impasse.
On June 2, the Pacific Maritime Association announced: “The ILWU is staging concerted and disruptive work actions that have effectively shut down operations at some marine terminals at the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach. The Union is also staging similar work actions that have shut down or severely impacted terminal operations at the Ports of Oakland, Tacoma, Seattle, and Hueneme.”
ILWU is the International Longshore & Warehouse Union, which, like the Pacific Maritime Association (PMA), is based in San Francisco. PMA represents west coast terminal operators.
Labor talks between the two organizations have already run for 13 months.
Neither of these opposing organizations immediately responded to FreshFruitPortal.com calls on June 5.
Ed Treacy, vice president of supply chain for the International Fresh Produce Association on June 5, offers these thoughts on the impact of the ongoing disruptions until these negotiations are complete:
"Any labor disruption at the ports will have an immediate effect on our industry. We are hopeful that these labor disruptions end quickly. Fresh produce exports are some of the most perishable shipments handled at the ports. Any freight delayed at the port as a result of the labor disruption will suffer from reduced shelf life. Fresh produce cannot sit and wait for the labor disruption to be settled. Shipments destined for the affected ports will have to be rerouted to other ports and arrangements will have to be made for shipping from those alternate ports. The exporters will incur increased costs of drayage, shipping costs, and other costs," says Treacy.
CNBC explains on June 2 that this is not a formal strike, although it’s a “no show” for dock workers. Among other ports, this involves Port of Hueneme, where bananas are the largest perishable import. Automobiles are a major cargo for Hueneme.
In a June 2 ILWU press release, International President Willie Adams says talks have “not broken down” and added, “we aren’t going to settle for an economic package that doesn’t recognize the heroic efforts and personal sacrifices of the ILWU workforce that lifted the shipping industry to record profits.”
The online publication Splash 247 reports the stoppage or severe disruption of operations stretching from terminals at southern California’s big container port complex at Los Angeles and Long Beach to Seattle, with Oakland suffering the largest disruptions.
Splash 247 indicates that west coast ports processed 40% of US container imports in the first quarter this year, down from 45% in the same period in 2019.
Shippers’ decision to shift to the east coast has been thrown a curve ball in recent weeks with the news from the Panama Canal where severe drought – and the likely onset of the El Niño weather phenomenon – is seeing a series of draft restrictions being introduced, Splash247 adds.