The Pacific Maritime Association (PMA) announced that its members had overwhelmingly approved a landmark six-year contract agreement with the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU). The announcement came on the same day that the ILWU released the results of its own ratification vote. With these approvals, the contract will be effective on February 1, 2003.
Noting that both sides showed strong support for the contract, PMA President Joseph Miniace said, "Today we begin a new era at West Coast ports. This ought to be an era of modernization, and also one of cooperation. By working with the ILWU, we will ensure the West Coast's standing as the premier location to send and receive goods."
The PMA members voted overwhelmingly to ratify the agreement, as did the ILWU. Miniace cited the results as evidence that workers and employers both were willing to look beyond the difficulty of the just-concluded labor talks and move forward with progress in mind.
"A modern waterfront will create new jobs, strengthen our economy, and enable us to better maintain port security," Miniace said. "It is time to roll up our sleeves and make this new contract document a reality."
The agreement provides ILWU members with substantial wage and benefits increases. This includes fully employer-paid health care, a 58 percent hike in pension benefits, and job protection guarantees to ensure that no currently registered worker will lose a job as a result of technology.
The issue of technology played center stage during this round of contract negotiations, which began May 13 and concluded with a tentative agreement on November 23, 2002. The employers had sought the right to implement modern tools and workplace practices currently in use around the world and close to home. Some examples are grocery-store scanners, automobile GPS technology and electronic data transfer similar to e-mail.
The need for modernization has become evident as West Coast cargo volumes have risen steadily in recent years, with a projected doubling of demand during the coming decade.
"Given its huge consumer base and infrastructure links to the rest of the nation, the West Coast is the logical place for companies to ship their goods into the United States," Miniace said. "We want to continue to give shippers every reason to send their goods through our ports. This agreement will enable us to do just that."