ILWU Pres Pleas For Bosses To Bring In The Carriers And Terminal Executives Into Talks

Port workers union ask for ‘key decision makers’ to join contract talks
By Karen Robes Meeks, Long Beach Press Telegram
POSTED: 12/29/14, 5:50 PM PST
Rather than involve a federal mediator, the union representing the 20,000 dockworkers at 29 ports in Los Angeles, Long Beach and along the West Coast wants “key decision makers” involved in its contract talks with the group acting on behalf of employers.

The International Longshore and Warehouse Union said Monday that the carriers and terminal executives on Pacific Maritime Association’s Board of Directors also need to be at the bargaining table in order for “direct and constructive dialogue” to happen.

The union, which had been negotiating with employers since May, said the PMA Board of Directors haven’t directly participated in talks, while the ILWU’s “principal decision makers” have been present. The last contract expired in July.

Both sides need the right people in the room to get things finalized, said Robert McEllrath, ILWU President and Chairman of the Union’s Negotiating Committee.

“Indirect negotiations won’t get us over the finish line,” McEllrath said in a statement. “The few issues that remain unresolved relate directly to the carriers and these key carriers need to come to the table.”

PMA officials said leadership is aware of the ramifications of ILWU work actions on the West Coast’s competitive standing and said their board has been “intimately involved” in talks since before they began in May.

PMA officials said the ILWU’s call for the addition of its Board of Directors at talks underscores the need for federal mediation.

“Unfortunately, the characterization that the PMA and ILWU have only a ‘few issues’ left to resolve is inaccurate,” the association said in a statement Monday. “Significant issues remain unresolved, including wages, pensions, jurisdiction and work rules. Further, the ILWU’s escalating rhetoric on congestion is nothing more than a smokescreen for its slowdown activities.”

PMA added that its leadership team has offered a ‘no-takeaways’ proposal that includes wage and pension increases on top of the ILWU’s compensation package.

“The average full-time ILWU worker currently earns in excess of $147,000, and is eligible for a pension with a maximum annual benefit of nearly $80,000 – and current proposals would increase these even further,” PMA said. “Additionally, PMA has offered to increase the pay guarantee program that enables registered workers to maintain full-time earnings during times of limited work opportunity.”

ILWU officials did not comment on specifics in talks.

As for federal mediation, Jennifer Sargent, an ILWU spokeswoman, said Monday that the union is in the process of considering whether or not mediation would be productive, or if other measures such as its call for involvement from PMA’s Board of Directors might serve the industry better.

“The ILWU is always open to using productive tools and ideas in obtaining a fair agreement,” she said.

Contact Karen Robes Meeks at 562-714-2088.