Reports indicate tensions are mounting in the negotiations between the Pacific Maritime Association (PMA) and International Longshore and Warehousemen's Union (ILWU). The current contract expired on July 1st.
Negotiations on the six-year contract began in March between the PMA, representing 71 cargo carriers and terminal operators, and the ILWU, representing over 15,000 member workers.
Productivity at the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach fell 10% to 15% t some terminals, according to PMA, when workers stopped staggering their 15-minute breaks and instead took them at the same time. The breaks are usually staggered to ensure work continues. The union called the claim an exaggeration.
Later reports indicated a further slowdown by union workers at LA and Long Beach. Pickets at a terminal in Tacoma reportedly halted work for four hours in a dispute over local issues there causing a vessel in port to depart without 82 export containers that were previously booked.
Both sides insist talks are progressing. The ILWU had posted a warning on its Web site telling members, “When contracts expire, some people are tempted to take matters into their own hands. Let's respect the Negotiating Committee strategy and our elected union official by discouraging talk about [wildcat strikes].”
Unrelated to the contract issue, an estimated 10,000 ILWU members “stood down” on May 1st by taking a day off work to call for an end to the war in Iraq. ILWU International President Bob McEllrath said at the time, “We won't stand by while our country, our troops, and our economy are destroyed by a war that's bankrupting us to the tune of $3 trillion.”