News and Events

Obama sending labor secretary to mediate ILWU-PMA dispute

February 17th, 2015
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Obama sending labor secretary to mediate ILWU-PMA dispute
Date: Feb 14, 2015
Source: Journal of Commerce

WASHINGTON, D.C. — President Obama is sending U.S. Labor Secretary Tom Perez to California to meet with International Longshore and Warehouse Union and Pacific Maritime Association negotiators to help them reach a contract as West Coast congestion nears a breaking point.

“The negotiations over the functioning of the West Coast Ports have been taking place for months with the Administration urging the parties to resolve their differences,” the White House said in a statement on Saturday. “Out of concern for the economic consequences of further delay, the President has directed his Secretary of Labor Tom Perez travel to California to meet with the parties to urge them to resolve their dispute quickly at the bargaining table.”

Perez, who is already in communication with both sides, will keep Obama updated on the status of the talks, according to the White House. Before the announcement made Saturday, the White House had balked at getting directly involved in talks and said it was confident both sides would be able to work out a deal.

But in recent weeks pressure on the Obama administration to get more involved has increased. More than a dozen lawmakers earlier this week via a resolution urged the president to “use all tools at his disposal,” including the Taft-Hartley Act, if there was a shutdown. Business groups, including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the National Retail Federation, have also urged the president to intervene.

Taft-Hartley allows the president to respond to […]

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PMA Halt Ship Work on Four of the next Five Days

February 12th, 2015
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  • PMA Halt Ship Work on Four of the next Five Days PMA Halt Ship Work on Four of the next Five Days

    PMA Halt Ship Work on Four of the next Five Days

The Journal of Commerce | February 11, 2015

The Pacific Maritime Association said its members will suspend U.S. West Coast vessel operations on four of the next five days rather than provide longshoremen with holiday or weekend pay for “severely diminished productivity.”

Vessel operations by the International Longshore and Warehouse Union will be suspended coastwide on Thursday (Lincoln’s Birthday), Saturday, Sunday and Monday (Washington’s Birthday).

Yard, gate and rail operations will continue at terminal operators’ discretion, the PMA said. Southern California terminal operators will expand daytime vessel operations on non-holiday weekdays.

The PMA’s action was the most far-reaching in a series of shutdowns of vessel operations during the acrimonious, nine-month-long contract negotiations between the employer group and the ILWU.

Employers suspended vessel operations last weekend. During the last month, employers have suspended most vessel operations on night shifts in order to clear container backlogs before vessel loading and unloading resumed the following morning.

The weekend and holiday shutdowns are driven by financial as well as operational considerations. Weekend and holiday pay scales are at least 50 percent above basic longshore wages.

“What they’re doing amounts to a strike with pay, and we will reduce the extent to which we pay premium rates for such a strike,” said PMA spokesman Wade Gates.

Work on weekends or holidays would range from $54 to $75 per hour for longshore workers and clerks, and between $77 and $92 per hour for foremen.

“PMA members have concluded that they will not conduct vessel operations on those dates, paying full shifts of ILWU workers such high rates for severely diminished productivity while the backlog of cargo at West Coast ports grows,” the employer association said in a statement.

Gridlock at West Coast ports has slowed supply chains and caused […]

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LA-Long Beach, Oakland, PNW congestion reaches critical stage

February 12th, 2015
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  • LA-Long Beach, Oakland, PNW congestion reaches critical stage LA-Long Beach, Oakland, PNW congestion reaches critical stage

    LA-Long Beach, Oakland, PNW congestion reaches critical stage

The Journal of Commerce | February 03, 2015

Congestion in Los Angeles-Long Beach has reached a crisis stage with 20 container ships stuck at anchor Tuesday in the largest U.S. port complex — and no relief in sight.

The Marine Exchange of Southern California reported that the vessels at anchor increased by four since Monday. Shipping lines say vessels in recent weeks have been sitting at anchor for seven to 14 days, and when they proceed to berth, it takes another six to eight days to work the ships. Vessels in the trans-Pacific have been thrown so far off schedule that at least one line has no vessels available to carry containers from Asia because all of its ships are stuck on the West Coast.

Meanwhile, contract negotiations between the International Longshore and Warehouse Union and the Pacific Maritime Association appear to be going nowhere. Significant progress was made when the PMA on Jan. 26 confirmed that a tentative agreement was reached that would allow ILWU mechanics to inspect all chassis before they leave the marine terminals.

However, with hopes raised that a settlement could be forthcoming in a matter of weeks, ILWU negotiators reportedly stunned employers by returning to the bargaining table the next day with a dozen new demands, some of which are considered to be highly controversial.

Meanwhile, a dangerous standoff between employers and the ILWU continues. The PMA several weeks ago discontinued all vessel work on night shifts at all West Coast ports. Employers said the container yards had become so congested that night shifts would concentrate on clearing out the container yards so the yards would be able to accept containers when vessel work resumed the next morning.

The PMA said the crisis began to […]

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