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Labor dispute sees ships divert from West Coast ports

Written by Nick Blenkey

PierGNOVEMBER 30, 2012 — As of yesterday, seven container terminals at the Port of Los Angeles were not in operation including China Shipping (Berth 100), Yang Ming (Berths 121-131), Yusen (Berths 212-225), Evergreen (Berths 226-236), APL (Berths 302-305) , APM (Berths 401-404) and California United (Berths 405-406). One container terminal, TraPac, remained open.

And as of 8.00 a.m. this morning, three of the six container terminals at the Port of Long Beach were closed. These terminals were Long Beach Container Terminal at Pier F, International Transportation Service at Pier G and Total Terminals International at Pier T. The following terminals were operating; SSAT at Pier A, SSAT/Matson at Pier C and Pacific Container Terminal at Pier J.

Talks aimed at resolving the situation resumed Thursday evening, November 29, according to the Port of Long Beach.

“It’s essential that both sides in this labor dispute return to the negotiating table and resolve this now,” said Port of Los Angeles Executive Director Geraldine Katz. “We are starting to see ships divert to other ports, including to Mexico. This dispute has impacted not only our Port work force but all stakeholders who ship goods through our complex and potentially the hundreds of thousands of jobs that are directly and indirectly related to port operations. In today’s shipping environment, we can’t afford to lose cargo or our competitive advantage.”

The LA Times says “the disruption is costing an estimated $1 billion a day at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, on which some 600,000 truckers, dockworkers, trading companies and others depend for their livelihoods.”

The striking union is the comparatively small ILWU Local 63 Office Clerical Unit (OCU).

The LA Times reports : “The union contends that the dispute is over job security and the transfer of work from higher-paid union members to lower-paid employees in other countries. The 14-employer management group says that no jobs have been outsourced and that the union wants to continue a practice called ‘featherbedding,’ or bringing in temporary workers even when there is no work.”

The newspaper quotes Stephen Berry, lead negotiator for the shipping lines and cargo terminals, as saying that the clerical workers have been offered a deal that includes “absolute job security,” a raise that would take average annual pay to $195,000 from $165,000, 11 weeks’ paid vacation and a generous pension increase.

Not only do the clerical workers provide a vital link in the logistics chain,but their pickets are being honored by other unions.

The ILU says

The ILWU-PMA Coast Labor Relations Committee that establishes policy and administers the contract between the employer and union on the West Coast waterfront on Wednesday agreed that ILWU Local 63 Office Clerical Unit (OCU) picket lines at the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach were bona fide. The agreement confirms that longshoremen in ILWU Locals 13, 63 and 94 have the right to refuse to cross OCU pickets under the collective bargaining agreement between the International Longshore and Warehouse Union and the Pacific Maritime Association. The Los Angeles/Long Beach Harbor though impacted, remains open for commerce at  greater than 25% capacity.

Members of the OCU have been working without a contract for 30 months, while simultaneously negotiating in good faith to reach an agreement with their employers, who include the carriers and terminal operators that employ longshoremen under the ILWU-PMA collective bargaining agreement.

Ray Familathe, the ILWU’s International Vice President for the Mainland, said, “I’m proud of the sacrifice that is being made by the men and women of Locals 13, 63 and 94 as they stand in solidarity with OCU and against the outsourcing of the good jobs that this community needs. And, despite the Employers’ propaganda to the contrary, the Port is still moving cargo.”

Joe Cortez, President of ILWU Local 13, said, “We support our sister local as its members work to reach a good contract that maintains local jobs with good working conditions, and family wages and benefits. We urge the employers to get back to the negotiating table and reach a good contract with the OCU.”

Ray Ortiz, Jr., an ILWU Coast Committeeman who represents all 30 longshore local unions on the West Coast, said, “Longshoremen stand up when other workers need our help. Sure it’s sacrifice to give up a paycheck when you refuse to cross the picket, but we believe it’s in the long-term interest of the Los Angeles-Long Beach Harbor area to retain these good local jobs. By standing with OCU, we stand with the community.”

The ITF is also supporting the clerical workers and earlier this week issued the following a press release:

The ITF (International Transport Workers’ Federation) today reacted angrily to reports that trade union representatives’ phone calls had been bugged by their employers at the port of Los Angeles, USA. The Office Clerical Unit of Local 63 of the ITF-affiliated ILWU (International Longshore and Warehouse Union), the branch involved, today began a strike at the port.

Speaking from Cyprus, where dockers’ and seafarers’ union leaders from around the world are meeting, ITF president Paddy Crumlin stated: “These are extremely serious charges. The world leadership of the dockers’ and seafarers’ unions of the ITF resolve to give full support and solidarity to the ILWU members affected. The company concerned is part of the Maersk international group, where there is an established dialogue, so the ITF will be urgently seeking high level meetings with them to find explanations and a functional resolution of the matter.”

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