ILWU Office Clerical Unit negotiations under way in LA-LB
Negotiations for a new contract between clerical office workers at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach and the shipping lines and terminal operators they work for are under way, talks that have the potential to disrupt cargo flow should complications arise.
The current six-year contract between the office workers who process shipping documentation, represented by the International Longshore and Warehouse Union Local 63 Office Clerical Unit (OCU), and their employers expires on June 30. Preliminary discussions between Local 63 OCU and employers have thus far dealt with more minor issues.
“We haven’t discussed the core issues yet,” Stephen Berry, lead negotiator for the Los Angeles-Long Beach Harbor Employers Association, told the Journal of Commerce Friday. Berry said it’s likely that discussion of the key OCU issues will wait until the ILWU and Pacific Maritime Association (PMA) have reached their own deal on a new contract for West Coast longshoremen. Those talks began last May, and although both sides continue to negotiate, there is no indication of when a new coastwide contract might be signed.
John Fageaux, president of ILWU Local 63 OCU, told the Journal of Commerce that negotiations on issues involving individual shipping lines and marine terminals are proceeding without incident. When negotiations do turn to the major issues, Fageaux said he “remains optimistic” that employers and the OCU will be able to reach an agreement.
Outsourcing of OCU jobs?
In past negotiations, the OCU’s major concern was that shipping lines and terminal operators were outsourcing their jobs to workers in other states as the processing of shipping documentation does not necessarily have to take place on site. Berry said he does not know if the OCU will raise outsourcing or further automation of office clerical functions through the use of computers because Fageaux has yet to specify what this contract’s major bargaining points will be.
The OCU negotiations are somewhat complex in that the Harbor Employers Association represents 10 of the 15 companies that the OCU bargains with. Each of the remaining five companies negotiate their own contracts directly with the OCU.
The talks have taken on added importance this year because of the larger ILWU-PMA coastwide contract talks. US retailers and other shippers are concerned that if complications arise in the OCU negotiations, dockworkers will honor any picket lines placed at the marine terminals by the OCU, which has happened in the past.
Members of the National Retail Federation are watching for any developments that come out of the OCU negotiations, and interest will heighten as the June 30 contract expiration draws closer, said Jonathan Gold, vice president for supply chain and customs policy at the NRF. Retailers and other importers “are concerned about what could happen if the PMA-ILWU contract is not finalized by then,” Gold told the Journal of Commerce Friday.
Source: Journal of Commerce
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