What's Happening at Ports During ILWU Negotiations?

UH-OH – ILWU Contract Negotiations Suspended Until June

Contract negotiations between the Worldwide Longshore & Warehouse Union (ILWU) and their employers on the West Coast ports, the Pacific Maritime Affiliation (PMA), have been suspended till June 1st in response to reporting by Invoice Mongelluzzo within the Journal of Commerce (JOC).

Mongelluzzo stories the suspension of negotiations comes on the behest of the ILWU:

One supply final week stated little progress has been made because the talks started and that the ILWU, at this level, seems to be in no rush to safe a brand new contract previous to the July 1 expiration of the present deal.

It is a return to regular from the ILWU, who conventional don’t like to barter, not less than in any critical method, earlier than the earlier contract has expired. In truth, it has been the coverage of each the ILWU and the Worldwide Longshoremen’s Affiliation (ILA) to by no means lengthen or comply with a brand new contract earlier than the expiration of the earlier contract. Ready for the expiration of the contract opens up the dockworkers’ unions’ means to sluggish operations on the ports, threaten strikes, and truly strike as a way to achieve leverage in negotiations.

Nevertheless, over the past new contract cycle, issues went exceptionally easily, with the dockworker unions on either side of the nation negotiating and agreeing to a brand new contract earlier than both noticed their earlier contract expire.

That exceptionally easy transition got here off the heals of a very dangerous contract transition when contentious negotiations between the PMA and ILWU in 2014-15 led to agricultural exports rotting on docks, import items by no means making it to the cabinets for the vacation season, billions in losses to the U.S. financial system, in addition to worldwide commerce partnerships for U.S. companies being completely dissolved.

Many shippers are fearful a couple of repeat of that state of affairs. Whereas significantly damaging, the 2014-15 negotiations have been a lot nearer to the norm than the sleek contract negotiations that adopted.

The hope was the latter, smoother contract negotiations would grow to be the brand new norm, that maybe a nook had been turned.

Whereas early contract settlement actually doesn’t seem like the brand new norm, the Port of Los Angeles’s director is making an attempt to maintain involved events calm and optimistic that we’re not returning to the previous and damaging modus operandi. Mongelluzzo stories:

Gene Seroka, government director of the Port of Los Angeles, instructed a Draytech seminar Friday in Lengthy Seashore that business stakeholders mustn’t rush to conclusions due to a short lived halt within the negotiations.

“Each side have seasoned negotiators. There’s rather a lot on the desk,” Seroka stated. “Give them some house.”

Definitely, calling this suspension a breakdown of negotiations could be leaping to conclusions. Nevertheless, it doesn’t give good reason for optimism. With the PMA deferring queries to the ILWU and the ILWU refusing to remark, shippers and different stakeholders have little motive to really feel optimistic. At any time when it’s time for a brand new contract to be negotiated with one of many dockworker unions, it tends to be pricey for shippers.

Mongelluzzo did report that particular person committee conferences between the PMA and ILWU are persevering with regardless of the suspension. The supply he obtained that from stated these committees are engaged on points similar to employee security.

After all, employee security isn’t a problem that’s more likely to be a sticking level. Clearly, each events care in regards to the security of the dockworkers. There might be variations in how the ILWU and PMA need to strategy the problem, however there isn’t a basic battle on the problem. There’s, nevertheless, a basic battle the events have on the problem of automation.

The PMA sees automation, and rightfully so, as a necessity for the ports to be aggressive and environment friendly within the transferring of products. The ILWU sees automation as an existential menace. Automation does imply having machines do work “mechanically” which might have beforehand been carried out by individuals. So there’s motive for the ILWU to have worry across the difficulty too.

We beforehand lined on this weblog how this combat went public earlier than the negotiations even began with the PMA releasing a research exhibiting automation created jobs on the ports and the ILWU calling it a “shell recreation.”

Actually, the combat has been raging for years. Whereas the ports have made some progress within the space of automation, the ILWU (and the ILA on the East and Gulf Coasts) has tremendously slowed the development of automation on the ports. A lot so, in reality, that U.S. ports are a lot much less environment friendly than a lot of their counterparts world wide.

When lockdowns and stimuli produced months upon months of surging demand of import items on the ports, the dearth of automation and effectivity was one of many massive elements in creating the horrible congestion and bottlenecks suffered on the ports.

One piece of excellent information in regards to the suspension is that it’s scheduled to finish, with negotiations deliberate to renew, a month earlier than the July 1st expiration of the ILWU contract. That does give a while for progress to be made earlier than the present contract expires. However I don’t assume these negotiations began early sufficient to start with to have any reasonable likelihood of manufacturing a brand new contract earlier than the expiration of the previous. And I don’t assume the ILWU ever had any intention of finishing negotiations earlier than contract expiration would enhance their negotiation leverage.

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