PMA and ILWU set to discuss contract extensions in November

The organizations said in a joint statement that talks have been tentatively scheduled for November 1-2. The current contract between the parties runs through June 30, 2019.

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Following respective statements made in August proposing talks on contract extensions, the Pacific Maritime Association (PMA) and the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) said this week they are ready to get the ball rolling.

The organizations said in a joint statement that talks have been tentatively scheduled for November 1-2. The current contract between the parties runs through June 30, 2019.

In August, the PMA, whom represents shipping lines and terminal operators at 29 West Coast ports, said that earlier this year “in an effort to provide stability on the West Coast waterfront,” it proposed talks on a contract extension with the ILWU.

That followed a release issued on August 11 by the ILWU indicating that the ILWU, whose members are comprised of roughly 20,000 longshore workers at West Coast ports in California, Oregon, and Washington, have agreed to meet on “the concept of a contract extension,” with the PMA saying that the next step is to schedule a time in the next 30-60 days for PMA and ILWU leadership to begin discussions, which led to this week’s announcement regarding the contract extension talks in November.

The August ILWU release noted that more than 100 delegates from 30 West Coast ports met to consider an employer request to discuss the possibility of an extension to the current collective bargaining agreement that expires in 2019, adding that by a majority vote yesterday, its delegates voted to enter into discussions with PMA representatives in regards to the concept of a contract extension and then report back to membership.

“The caucus made a tough decision under current circumstances amid a wide range of concerns and opposing views on how to respond to PMA’s request,” said ILWU International President Robert McEllrath. “This is a directive to go and have discussions with the PMA and report back to the membership, and we’ll do just that, with the wellbeing of the rank and file, our communities, and the nation in mind.”

The fact that negotiations are beginning well in advance of the current contract’s expiration should be viewed positively, considering the state of disarray and flux things were in between the two parties, and really the global and domestic shipping sectors at large, too, in the months leading up to the eventual inking of a new contract that came to fruition early last summer once the dust finally settled.

As reported by LM, the impasse between the parties went back to July 2014, when their existing contract at the time expired. Among the issues that led to a tense negotiating environment between the pair were differences on several issues, including wages, pensions, health-care benefits, arbitration process rules and operations.

These differences led to nine months of labor unrest and uncertainty that impacted freight flows and port operations in the form of terminal congestion and related supply chain challenges until PMA and ILWU reached their tentative agreement. During this time, emotions on each side ran high, and when prospects of a new deal were at its bleakest point, the sides turned to the U.S. Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service in hopes of helping the sides find a way to come to an agreement.

And when the parties initially reached a deal in late February 2015, industry estimates suggested it would take about two months to clear out the cargo backlog at West Coast ports. At certain points, the two largest West Coast ports, the Port of Los Angeles and the Port of Long Beach had roughly 30 container ships waiting for a berth between the two ports.

Depending on how these talks progress early on is likely to go a long way in terms of what a new contract looks like and how long it takes to get there. The good news for both sides, as well as shippers and carriers is this: June 30, 2019 is a while from now and provides ample time for both sides to iron out any differences and keep things smoothly operating in and out of West Coast ports.

Prior to the most recent contract agreement, the sides had to to turn to the U.S. Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service in hopes of helping them find a way to come to an agreement as well as at certain points, the two largest West Coast ports, the Port of Los Angeles and the Port of Long Beach had roughly 30 container ships waiting for a berth between the two ports.


About the Author

Jeff Berman, Group News Editor
Jeff Berman is Group News Editor for Logistics Management, Modern Materials Handling, and Supply Chain Management Review. Jeff works and lives in Cape Elizabeth, Maine, where he covers all aspects of the supply chain, logistics, freight transportation, and materials handling sectors on a daily basis. Contact Jeff Berman

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Article Topics

ILWU · Ocean Shipping · PMA · West Coast Ports · All Topics
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