Terminal operators at ports along the U.S. West Coast will, for the second time in less than a week, suspend vessel loadings amid a labor dispute with dockworkers.
Vessel loadings and unloadings will be stopped Feb. 12 and again Feb. 14-16, the Pacific Maritime Association, a San Francisco-based group representing employers in the negotiations with longshoremen, said by e-mail Feb. 11. Association members cited “ongoing and costly” worker slowdowns in their decision to halt vessel traffic. Some yard, gate and rail operations will continue.
Click here to read more at Transport Topics.Issues: Labor Movement
ILWU Pres McEllrath Says ILWU Wants To Go To Work But The PMA Won't Let Them
Published on Feb 11, 2015
ILWU President Robert McEllrath addresses the ILWU membership on the ongoing contract negotiations with the Pacific Maritime Association, Feb 11, 2015.
West Coast PMA locks out ILWU to stop loading, unloading ships for four days
West Coast ports to stop loading, unloading ships for four days
Trucks stream into the Maersk terminal near sundown as cargo containers fill the yard in San Pedro, CA on Thursday, January 29, 2015. With port operations all but shut down during the night, the shipping yards are filled with mountains of containers as ships wait offshore to enter the harbor and unload their cargo. (Photo by Scott Varley, Daily Breeze)
By Karen Robes-Meeks, email@example.com, @KarenMeeksPT on Twitter
POSTED: 02/11/15, 2:46 PM PST | UPDATED: 1 HR AGO0 COMMENTS
Amid epic congestion that has seized the nation’s busiest seaports, employers at West Coast ports announced Wednesday they will suspend ship loading and unloading day shifts for four days.
The Pacific Maritime Association, the group representing employers, said it will stop vessel operations Thursday, Saturday, Sunday and Monday because they don’t want to pay upcoming weekend and holiday shifts for what they consider “severely diminished productivity” by members of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union, which represents 20,000 dockworkers, including those who work at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach.
Yard, gate and rail operations will continue at the discretion of terminal operators, while ship operation night shifts have remained suspended since Jan. 13. On non-holiday weekdays, terminal operators in Southern California will expand daytime vessel operations.
According to PMA, longshore workers can earn at least 50 percent more pay for working weekends and holidays, adding that longshore workers and clerks stand to make $54 to $75 per hour, while foremen can make between $77 and $92 per hour.
“Last week, PMA made a comprehensive contract offer designed to bring these talks to conclusion,” PMA spokesman Wade Gates said in a statement. “The ILWU responded with demands they knew we could not meet, and continued slowdowns that will soon bring West Coast ports to gridlock. What they’re doing amounts to a strike with pay, and we will reduce the extent to which we pay premium rates for such a strike.”
PMA is blaming ILWU for not hiring enough crane operators to move cargo out of congested yards, forcing them to suspend night ship operations indefinitely to focus on clearing yards.
ILWU officials have vehemently denied that they are the cause of slowdowns, adding that employers are the ones who have been ordering fewer workers to move cargo in the last several months and that PMA refuses to hire and properly train employees for the skilled work.
The union also said that PMA has been disingenuous about why employers suspended night shifts for loading and unloading ships, releasing photos of empty yard spaces where containers should be.
“This is an effort by the employers to put economic pressure on our members and to gain leverage in contract talks,” ILWU President Robert McEllrath said in a statement. “The union is standing by ready to negotiate, as we have been for the past several days.”
McEllrath added that employers cancelled a contract meeting scheduled for Wednesday and have not made themselves available to negotiate since Friday.
Since May, both sides have been engaged in contract talks to replace the one that expired in July. Despite securing tentative agreements on health benefits and the jurisdictional issue of repairing and fixing chassis, the trailers needed to tow containers, talks have stalled, prompting the intervention of a federal mediator.
Some thought the addition of a mediator would hasten talks, but contention between both sides has escalated in recent weeks, with PMA suspending ship operation shifts this past weekend.
PMA said there are at least six issues that remain resolved, including wages, pensions and the issue of removing an arbitrator, those who decide whether work stoppage is bonafide. PMA said the union wants the right to remove an arbitrator who rules against them at the end of each contract period.
“The ILWU’s current slowdowns, now in their fourth month, show the very reason that we need a healthy arbitration system in place,” Gates said. “It is essential to be able to prevent the crippling slowdowns that are impacting workers and businesses across the nation.”
ILWU said PMA has grossly mischaracterized the union’s bargaining position and have said that both sides are close to a contract.
“It seems to us that the employers are trying to sabotage negotiations,” said McEllrath. “They are not just hurting workers, families and communities,” he said, “what our employers are doing is bad for the industry and the U.S. economy.”
Meanwhile, congestion continues to plague ports and impact the entire supply chain, from truck drivers waiting for hours to pick up container to more than a dozen ships parked at sea waiting for berths at the Los Angeles and Long Beach ports. It has forced retailers to divert goods to other ports or ship them by air.
“The continued intransigence by labor and management to reach a new contract is unacceptable,” said Jonathan Gold, vice president for Supply Chain for the National Retail Federation. “Retailers and the rest of the supply chain are frustrated beyond belief. The slowdowns need to end. The brinkmanship needs to stop. The ILWU and PMA are delaying cargo and merchandise in the short-term while harming the competitiveness of the West Coast ports in the long-term. This stalemate is hurting American businesses, their employees and consumers.”
Gold urged both sides to remain at the table and called for the White House to intervene.
“It’s time for the White House to immediately engage in this critically-important economic priority and force the two sides to remain at the negotiating table until a deal is done. The time for monitoring has passed. The time for action has come.”
Contact Karen Robes Meeks at 562-714-2088.Tags: ilwuLockoutunion busting
Partial West Coast Port Shutdown Looms: Contract Talks Stall As PMA On The Attack With Another Lockout
Partial West Coast Port Shutdown Looms: Contract Talks Stall As PMA On The Attack With Another Lockout
Partial West Coast Port Shutdown Looms: Contract Talks Stall
Feb 11, 8:25 PM EST
PARTIAL WEST COAST PORT SHUTDOWN LOOMS; CONTRACT TALKS STALL
BY JUSTIN PRITCHARD
LOS ANGELES (AP) -- Troubles on the West Coast waterfront are getting worse.
Amid an increasingly damaging labor dispute, 29 West Coast seaports which handle about $1 trillion of goods annually will be mostly closed four of the next five days.
The announcement came Wednesday from the association representing companies that operate marine terminals where dockworkers move containers of goods on and off massive ocean-going vessels, eventually transferring the containers onto trucks or trains for distribution nationwide.
Companies said they won't hire crews to load or unload ships Thursday, Saturday, Sunday or Monday - when they'd have to pay presidents' day holiday or weekend wages to dockworkers they accuse of slowing their work to gain leverage in contract talks.
Employers do not want to pay hourly rates that are at least 50 percent above normal, which would bring a few of the highest-paid dockworkers to close to $100 per hour, according to Steve Getzug, a spokesman for the Pacific Maritime Association.
Instead, terminal operators could decide to hire smaller crews that would focus on moving already-unloaded containers into the flow of commerce. Full crews would still service military and cruise ships, and any cargo ships bound for Hawaii - but these are small operations compared to work on container ships that are as long as some skyscrapers are tall.
Those ships bring in car parts, furniture, clothing, electronics - just about anything made in Asia and destined for U.S. consumers. Ships then take goods back, exports that include perishables such as rice, hay, nuts and produce.
Cargo has been struggling for months to cross the docks amid historically bad levels of congestion.
Employers blame crowded docks on longshoremen they say have staged work slowdowns since November; dockworkers deny slowing down and say cargo is moving slowly for reasons they do not control, including a shortage of truck beds to take containers to retailers' distribution warehouses. In recent days, the International Longshore and Warehouse Union said companies are exaggerating to cut dockworker shifts and pressure negotiators into a contract agreement.
In response to Wednesday's move by employers, the union noted that longshoremen were not hired to load or unload vessels last weekend. It also emphasized that the two sides have not talked across the bargaining table since last Friday.
"The union is standing by ready to negotiate, as we have been for the past several days," union President Robert McEllrath said in a written statement. He suggested the maritime association is "trying to sabotage negotiations."
Whatever the causes of the congestion, containers that used to take two or three days to hit the highway have been taking a week or more. Meanwhile, outside ports in Southern California, the San Francisco Bay Area and Washington, about three dozen ships are at anchor, awaiting a berth.
Differences over what is causing the cargo backup reflect disputes at the bargaining table.
Negotiations between the maritime association and dockworkers' union for a new contract were to resume Wednesday in San Francisco, but were canceled despite heavy - and increasing - pressure from elected officials and businesses to reach a deal. The two sides are now scheduled to reconvene Thursday morning, maritime association spokesman Getzug said.
Talks have stalled over how to arbitrate future workplace disputes. Some of the biggest issues, including health care, have been resolved with tentative agreements.
Contact Justin Pritchard at http://twitter.com/lalanewsman .Tags: ILWU LockoutPMA
February 11, 2015
ILWU International President Robert McEllrath has released the following update on the contract talks with the Pacific Maritime Association.
Hearst Owned SF Chronicle Supports PMA Bosses War Against ILWU West Coast Longshoreman
Labor impasse threatens West Coast ports
San Francisco ChronicleFebruary 10, 2015Photo: Justin Sullivan / Getty ImagesOAKLAND, CA - FEBRUARY 06: A Maersk Line container ship sits idle in the San Francisco Bay just outside of the Port of Oakland on February 6, 2015 in Oakland, California. Pacific Maritime Association announced today that terminal operators at 29 West Coast ports will be shutting down cargo operations amidst long labor negotiations with the International Longshore and Warehouse Union. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
A labor impasse at West Coast ports has entered the danger phase, slowing trade and leading to predictions of daily losses of $2 billion if a full-fledged strike occurs. Both dockworkers and employers need to get serious in settling differences that can damage the nation’s economy.
More than half of all U.S. maritime trade flows through 29 ports dominated by container terminals in Southern California, Washington and Oakland. Some 20,000 employees drive trucks, operate cranes and track shipments at these economic choke points.
Since July, the dominant longshore union has worked without a contract. But as talks narrow, the work isn’t getting done. Employers halted unloading last weekend and then restarted shoreside work following months when workers effectively slowed activities, citing safety and other concerns.
This jousting is leading nowhere. It’s obliging shippers to consider costly airfreight and may lead to canceled contracts as retail buyers and manufacturers give up on moving their goods.
A federal mediator is at work with off-and-on talks due to restart on Wednesday. This slow pace is why California’s senators, Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein, issued a blunt letter to both sides. The two Democrats noted that 17 ships are anchored off Oakland waiting to unload and another 22 are waiting at the Los Angeles and Long Beach complex. Meanwhile the state’s citrus and rice producers are prepping for prime-time exports but with little hope of prompt deliveries. “These are terrible circumstances,” the two senators said.
One central issue should prompt public interest: the sky-high wages that longshore union members now get and will likely exceed in a new contract. Last week, the Pacific Maritime Association, which represents employers, said the average union member earns $147,000 per year. Their offer would add 14 percent over five years and continue an employer-paid health plan. A typical pension would be $88,900 per year, the employer group said.
Labor officials have declined to detail their demands. Job security, safety and new tasks in an era of ever-larger ships are prime concerns, a union official said.
Stark as these differences sound, they must be worked out. Neither the West Coast nor the rest of the nation wants a walkout.Tags: PMAilwuHearst Corporation
Farmer Brothers, the iconic coffee company based on the border of Torrance and Los Angeles, likes to market a sweet story about how it came to be.
In 1912, Roy E. Farmer thought restaurants should be serving a better cup of coffee, so he started a bean delivery business in the back of his brother's bicycle shop. And from those humble beginnings, the business became a national success, with Farmer later handing the reins to his son.
Click here to read more at the Los Angeles Times.Issues: Labor Movement
Teamsters Canada Rail Conference has given Canadian Pacific Railway 72-hour strike notice, meaning 3,300 locomotive engineers, conductors and other train workers could walk off the job midnight on Saturday.
Union president Doug Finnson is in Montreal this week negotiating with CP, with the help of federal mediation, but says the union has not made headway on issues such as working conditions.
Click here to read more at CBC News.Issues: Rail
If there were a Comeback Player of the Year award for corporate performance, YRC Worldwide might have taken home the trophy for 2014. Not that the $5 billion trucking company is now a superstar — far from it. Rather, such recognition would be testimony to how low YRC had sunk.
After years of finance jockeying that barely kept the company from tripping into bankruptcy, its footing is relatively secure now. A smorgasbord of entwined elements converged in the rescue: a new labor deal, a deft debt restructuring, an equity offering that allowed for debt paydown, an operational downsizing, the improving economy, and plain luck.
Click here to read more.Issues: Freight
Greece to Proceed With Piraeus Port Privatization Move Backtracks on Previous Statements From the New Leftist Government
Greece to Proceed With Piraeus Port Privatization
Move Backtracks on Previous Statements From the New Leftist Government
Greece will proceed with the privatization of the country’s main port of Piraeus.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE/GETTY
By COSTAS PARIS and ALKMAN GRANITSAS
Feb. 10, 2015 8:13 a.m. ET
Greece will proceed with the privatization of the country’s main port of Piraeus, Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis plans to tell his eurozone counterparts at a meeting in Brussels on Wednesday, backtracking on previous statements from the new leftist government that had pledged to freeze the deal, senior Greek government officials said.
The U-turn comes as Greece’s new leftist, Syriza-led coalition government scrambles to reach a financing deal with international creditors that will keep the country from running out of cash in coming weeks and potentially defaulting on its debts. Since being voted into power just over two weeks ago, the new government has set a collision course with its European creditors by promising to roll back many of the austerity measures and reforms—such as privatizations—that Greece has undertaken in the past five years to secure billions of euros in aid.
Selling the state’s 67% stake in the Piraeus Port Authority is one of the biggest divestments of an ambitious privatization plan agreed to by the previous conservative government with the so-called troika of creditors—the European Union, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund—for the debt-ridden country to continue receiving bailout funds. It is also one of the more symbolic: The port of Piraeus, just a few miles south of the Greek capital of Athens, is the de facto home of Greece’s giant shipping industry and is one of the largest ports in the Mediterranean.
“The Piraeus sale is on. It will proceed as planned,” a senior finance-ministry official told The Wall Street Journal.
People with knowledge of the deal said the port sale could yield up to €800 million ($908 million), and binding offers are expected by the end of March.
Greece had agreed with creditors that it would realize total privatization proceeds this year of around €2.8 billion—a figure Greece may struggle to reach. The full privatization plan was to include selling a variety of assets, including the operating concessions to 14 airports around the country, the natural-gas distribution network and some state-run hotels and property. The new government insists that some things won’t be sold, such as the state-owned national utility, but senior EU officials say the Piraeus sale is a key test case.
Just a few weeks ago, Theodore Dritsas, the new head of the merchant-marine ministry, told reporters that the sale was canceled, in line with the Syriza party’s pre-election promise that “strategic state assets” wouldn’t be privatized and that completed deals would be renegotiated. Party officials told the Journal at the time that the government would work instead to sell Piraeus through a concession to a state-owned entity from countries including China, Russia or Arab countries after a government-to-government negotiated deal.
That sudden policy shift stunned both Greece’s creditors and international investors lining up to buy the Piraeus stake. Among them was China’s shipping and ports giant China Cosco Holding Co., which in 2009 acquired a 35-year concession to part of the port’s container terminal. Hua Chunying, a spokesman for the Chinese finance ministry, said at the time that the Cosco program had become “a model for Chinese-Greek mutually beneficial cooperation” and expressed hope that more deals could be reached.
Now that the government has shifted policy yet again, people with knowledge of the situation said Cosco is the front-runner to win the Piraeus deal given the success of its existing container-terminal concession, which has generated more than 1,000 jobs. They said Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras plans in the near future to visit Beijing, where he would seek further Chinese investments in Greece.
Since first emerging as the main opposition three years ago at the depths of Greece’s debt crisis, Syriza, a coalition of leftist movements, has blasted privatizations as stripping Greece of its most valuable assets. While in opposition, it was at the forefront of demonstrations against the 2009 Cosco deal.
Before the elections, the previous government’s shortlist for the Piraeus port privatization had included Cosco along with APM Terminals, owned by Danish shipping major A.P. Møller-Mærsk A/S; Ports America Inc., the biggest U.S. port operator; and Philippines-based port operator International Container Terminal Services Inc. The current market value of the Piraeus Port Authority is around €278 million, but people familiar with the deal said bidders would be willing to pay a premium given that Piraeus is the closest major Western port to the Suez Canal and sits astride the heavily trafficked Asia-to-Europe shipping route.
“We are awaiting word from the new government on the privatization process,” said Tom Boyd, a spokesman for APM Terminals. “We remain committed to the development of Greece. In terms of reforms, the port privatization is a positive opportunity for investment and growing the economy.”Greeceprivatization
Contentious Negotiations Continue Between PMA and ILWU; Union Accused of Causing Illegal Slowdowns
ASIA MORRIS FEBRUARY 09 2015 17:08in TRADE & TRANSPORTATION
On the re-opening of the 29 West Coast harbors, the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) released a statement Monday saying that the Union is still trying to negotiate with the Pacific Maritime Association (PMA).
“West Coast ports re-opened Monday morning after employers closed the docks for two days, increasing delays for customers needing containers. The union remains focused on reaching a settlement as quickly as possible with employers. Talks to resolve the few remaining issues between the Longshore Union and Pacific Maritime Association are ongoing,” said Craig Merrilees, ILWU spokesman, in a statement. Merrilees called the weekend work stoppage “shocking,” considering that the two sides are still negotiating.
According to City News Service (CNS), about 20 ships were waiting outside the twin ports over the weekend; resumed work this morning brought that number down to 16 ships.
However, the PMA published a release Monday detailing the current stalled negotiations, explaining “the ILWU’s demand to be able to fire any arbitrator who rules against the Union.” According to CNS, labor negotiations are to resume Wednesday
Currently, according to the release, an arbitrator can only be fired upon the agreement of both parties. The ILWU is bargaining to change this arrangement so that either party could potentially remove an arbitrator at the end of any contract. PMA objects to this demand to “damage the system that has protected the waterfront for decades.”
“The ILWU is essentially seeking the right to fire judges who rule against them,” said PMA spokesman Wade Gates in a statement. “The waterfront arbitration system is an essential check-and-balance against illegal labor actions. It would be reckless to allow a single party to change the rules as the Union desires.”
If a contract is in place, disputes between parties are brought before one of four arbitrators who are tasked with overseeing different regions. According to the PMA, waterfront arbitrators rule quickly so that disagreements can be addressed without disrupting port operations. Because the Union did not sign a contract extension, the arbitration system has not been upheld during negotiations. According to the release, the extended contract has a no-strike clause which is heavily relied upon in these instances.
In the same release, the PMA also accused the ILWU of causing over 200 illegal slowdowns during the 2008-2014 contract period. The PMA said the same arbitrators who have ruled against the ILWU during that period are the ones being targeted.
According to CNS, ILWU officials called the PMA’s accusations “totally inaccurate” and said that it is “irresponsible for them to make these (kinds) of misleading statements.” Union officials blamed the slowdowns on the employers’ inability to train enough qualified employees for the job.
Long Beach port spokesman Lee Peterson said in a statement that port officials are urging a resolution to the labor dispute and are “concerned we're going to lose business,”' with some customers believed to be traveling to Gulf Coast ports and harbors in Canada, according to CNS.Tags: ilwuPMA
On January 7, 2015, two days before the end of her 6 month probationary period, THRWU member S. was terminated from her job as a Senior Harm Reduction Worker at Syme Woolner Neighbourhood and Family Centre.
S. was terminated immediately and without cause, which is reprehensible but legal in Ontario within a probationary period. During her 6 months-less-two-days at Syme Woolner, S. had advocated for better treatment of workers and against discrimination and disrespect of workers and service users. She was the third person to occupy her position in less than a year.
Some multiemployer pension fund executives are trying to figure out whether to take advantage of a controversial new reform law that allows potential benefit cuts for participants and retirees. Others are hoping for further reforms to allow for alternative plan designs.
The Multiemployer Pension Reform Act of 2014 — passed swiftly in December — allows deeply underfunded plans to take unprecedented steps to avoid insolvency but comes with strings attached. It also gives federal regulators some new tactics that could help save troubled multiemployer plans (Pensions & Investments, Dec. 22).
Click here to read more at Pensions & Investments.Issues: Pension and Benefits