West Coast port operators halt ship work over weekend
The Pacific Maritime Association suspends weekend vessel operations at all 29 ports along the West Coast.
Seattle Times business reporter
For the second time this week, terminal operators controlling the West Coast ports have raised the stakes in contract negotiations with their dockworkers.
On Friday, the Pacific Maritime Assocation (PMA) said it would suspend weekend vessel operations at all 29 ports along the West Coast.
“After three months of union slowdowns, it makes no sense to pay extra for less work,” PMA spokesman Wade Gates said in a statement. “Especially if there is no end in sight to the union’s actions, which needlessly brought West Coast ports to the brink of gridlock.”
The association, which represents terminal operators and shipping lines at West Coast ports, is halting all vessel loading and unloading. Yard, rail and gate operations, which include processing containers for truck and rail delivery to customers, will be allowed to continue at the terminal operators’ discretion, according to the release.
Vessel operations are scheduled to resume Monday. As of Friday, the Port of Seattle had five vessels at berth and two at anchor. The Port of Tacoma had seven docked and another seven at anchor.
“The PMA is playing a dangerous and unnecessary game of brinkmanship by idling vessels for two days in a not-too-disguised effort to intimidate the ILWU membership,” Jennifer Sargent, a spokeswoman for the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU), said in response.
This comes after an ultimatum from PMA Chief Executive James McKenna earlier this week, warning that the PMA could lock out the dockworkers from all terminals along the West Coast within 10 days if the two sides did not reach a new contract.
The previous contract expired in July, and the two parties are in their ninth month of negotiations for a new one.
On Wednesday, McKenna said they have yet to settle differences on six issues, including wages, pension, terms of agreement, the arbitration process and how certain functions will be performed, such as chassis — truck-bed — inspections.
Stakeholders in port operations have been pleading for President Obama to step in since port slowdowns first started on Halloween. While the two sides have had a federal mediator present since Jan. 5, after Friday’s announcement politicians and associations across the country urged for the president to step in.
“This is unacceptable,” Rep. Dave Reichert, R-Auburn, said in a statement. “We have seen employees laid off, produce going to waste, and businesses lose market share which may never be recovered.”
The National Retail Federation (NRF) has asked both sides to “stop holding the supply-chain community hostage” and agree on a new labor contract.
“Enough is enough,” Jonathan Gold, NRF vice president for supply chain, said in a statement. “The escalating rhetoric, the threats, the dueling news releases and the inability to find common ground between the two sides are simply driving up the cost of products, jeopardizing American jobs and threatening the long-term viability of businesses large and small.”