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Report says Port of Los Angeles and Port of Long Beach clerical workers nix contract agreement

By Jeff Berman, Group News Editor
February 11, 2013

Roughly six weeks after teams representing employers at the ports of Los Angeles (POLA) and Long Beach POLB) and the International Longshore and Warehouse Union Local 63 Office Clerical Unit (“OCU”) ended an eight-day strike in the form of a tentative agreement, which saw activity at POLA and POLB essentially come to a halt, the Long Beach Press Telegram reported late last week that clerical workers at both ports rejected a contract proposal that ended the strike in early December.

Even though the contract proposal was rejected the report said business remained open at the ports, with officials at both ports urging the Harbor Employees Association and the ILWU Local 63 OCU Clerical Unit to return to the table and hammer out an agreement.

“We had anticipated that the union would honor the deal reached to end the strike and ratify,” said Steve Getzug, a spokesman for the employers association, in the Press Telegram report. “For now, the clerks are operating under the provisions of the former contract and operations at the ports are running normally.”

Last year’s eight-day strike commenced on November 27, when the 80-member OCU expressed frustration regarding shipping line employers outsourcing jobs. The OCU, said in a Los Angeles Times report, that it had the support of 10,000 regional ILWU members, whom in turn honored the picket line and did not work. The report added that it centered on the claim by the union that employers have steadily outsourced jobs through attrition, while the union said the employers have transferred work from higher-paid union members to lower-paid employees in other states and countries.

The impact of the labor stoppage was significant, with roughly 20 container vessels idled as a result, which were unable to unload or load cargo, and more than 20 vessels either anchored at POLA and POLB or diverted since the beginning of the strike to Oakland, Panama, and Ensenada, Mexico. Along with the idled or diverted vessels, each port had several container operations that were not in operation during the duration of the labor stoppage. What’s more, the OCU had picket lines at 10 of the 14 terminals at POLA and POLB.

And it was clear that supply chain operations were being negatively affected, due to things like port terminal operators lacking the room and resources to store empty containers and intermodal equipment.

Had the strike continued, many industry experts said it was reasonable to assume that it could have cost the U.S. economy roughly $1 billion per day, as was the case with the ten-day West Coast port strike in 2002. According to industry estimates, POLA and POLB cumulatively handle more than 40 percent of U.S. import cargo per day, which represents about $1 billion on a daily basis.
News of the clerical workers rejecting the contract terms was not welcomed by the National Retail Federation (NRF).

“We are extremely disappointed by this vote and strongly urge the parties to work through their differences without any kind of disruption,” said NRF Vice President, Supply Chain, Jonathan Gold in a statement. “Ratification of a contract is needed to give retailers and other industries that rely on these ports the predictability they need to make long-term plans and get back to growing their businesses and creating jobs. The shutdown during the holiday shopping season was more than just a fight between labor and management – it threatened to impact consumers’ shopping plans at the most crucial time of the year. We can’t afford to see another shutdown. As labor and management work to resolve this situation, uninterrupted operation of the ports should be their top priority. Too many jobs across the country depend on these ports to let any interference with operations be considered an acceptable way of doing business.”

About the Author

Jeff Berman headshot
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. .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

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