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West Coast ports ‘stable’ after ILWU, PMA agree to cooling off period

Home News West Coast ports ‘stable’ after ILWU, PMA agree to cooling off period

West Coast ports ‘stable’ after ILWU, PMA agree to cooling off period

Cargo handling at West Coast ports was largely normal Tuesday after the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) and maritime employers agreed to a cooling off period late Monday during a joint meeting with Julie Su, the Biden administration’s nominee for Labor Secretary, sources said.

The two sides will attempt to use the apparent truce to reach agreement on the highly contentious issue of wages, which triggered disruptive job actions by ILWU locals over the past week and appeared to put the 13-month-long contract negotiations at a low point. Negotiations were due to resume Tuesday.

Su met with the ILWU and Pacific Maritime Association (PMA) in San Francisco in a bid to break the stalemate.

The job actions by ILWU locals in the Pacific Northwest and Southern California ceased for the night shift Monday, sources said, and West Coast ports began Tuesday’s day shift amid normal operations.

“We’re pretty stable here this morning,” a source with knowledge of Southern California port operations told the Journal of Commerce Tuesday. “There were no issues [Monday] night.”

A number of terminals in Los Angeles and Long Beach were shorted key workers last week by ILWU locals, causing a vessel backlog because ships could not leave port.

A spokesperson at the Port of Oakland said all terminals were open and operating normally for the Tuesday day shift following a quiet night shift Monday.

A source told the Journal of Commerce Tuesday that operations in Seattle and Tacoma, which had suffered the worst of the work slowdowns last week, were “kind of back to normal” on the second shift Monday and the day shift Tuesday.

Far apart on wages 

The coastwide contract negotiations have yet to reach a conclusion after 13 months, and the current hangup over wages could be the most problematic issue of all. The ILWU is reportedly demanding an increase of $7.50 per hour in the straight-time wage for each year for the six-year life of the new contract, or a staggering $45 hike per hour. The current wage is $46.23 per hour, according to the PMA’s 2022 Annual Report, so the ILWU is seeking to essentially double the straight-time hourly wage for general longshore workers. But after two years of record profits for carriers in 2021 and 2022 that ran well into the tens of billions, longshore workers are looking to cash in.

The PMA and ILWU declined to comment. Sources told the Journal of Commerce the PMA is offering a wage package that is significantly less than what the ILWU seeks.

The ILWU’s wage demand will affect only the straight-time wage that is paid to all longshore workers regardless of their work categories. Under the coastwide contract that expired last July 1, ILWU marine clerks and foremen receive skill-differential pay on top of the base wage. Marine clerks earn 15%, 25% and 30% skill differential pay on top of the hourly wage, depending on their work categories. All foremen earn a 30% wage differential on top of the base hourly wage, according to the PMA Annual Report.

The report listed the earnings of longshore workers who worked 2,000 hours annually, or a 40-hour work week, in 2022 as $197,514 for general longshore workers, $220,042 for marine clerks and $306,291 for foremen.

Source: Journal of Commerce 

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