Another employer strikes deal with LA ILWU Local 63 clerical workers

Another employer strikes deal with LA ILWU Local 63 clerical workers
Bill Mongelluzzo, Senior Editor | Dec 11, 2015 5:12PM EST
Credit: Green Fire Productions
A fourth employer has reached agreement with the union representing clerical workers at shipping lines and terminal operators in Los Angeles-Long Beach.

John Fageaux, president of the Office Clerical Unit of International Longshore and Warehouse Union Local 63, said he would like to sign similar contracts with the remaining 13 companies as soon as possible.

“We want to get these deals done,” Fageaux said Friday. Reaching agreement before the existing OCU contract expires June 30 would be a remarkable achievement and would improve labor stability in the largest U.S. port complex, considering that it took two and one-half years of negotiation and a weeklong strike to settle the previous contract.

Fageaux said he signed a seven-year contract with Long Beach Container Terminal. Also, the five-year contracts that were signed last month with Matson/SSA Marine, Pasha Stevedoring and Ports America Group were extended to seven years. All of the contracts include similar improvements in wages and benefits and ensure that employers do not use computer technology to outsource OCU work to non-union workers in other states or countries, he said

Office clerical workers process shipping documentation. Although the OCU is affiliated with the larger International Longshore and Warehouse Union that represents dockworkers at all West Coast ports, the OCU contract is separate from the coastwide ILWU contract. The coastwide contract took almost 10 months to negotiate and was marked by work slowdowns, employer retaliation and the worst West Coast port congestionin more than a decade.

There are 13 additional shipping lines and terminal operators in Los Angeles-Long Beach that have contracts with the office clerical unit of ILWU Local 63. Those companies are represented by the Los Angeles/Long Beach Harbor Employers Association.

Fageaux said he prefers to negotiate with companies individually rather than through an employers’ association. “I can negotiate one of those contracts in five or six hours versus two and one-half years like last time,” he said. When negotiating more than a dozen contracts simultaneously, there are 50 to 60 people in the room and “the environment is not conducive to reaching an early agreement,” Fageaux said.

Stephen Berry, the attorney who represents the Harbor Employers Association, said that if similar terms are offered to every employer, the remaining 13 contracts could be signed by the end of the year. The problem, Berry said, is that the OCU wants to isolate several companies it has issues with, and exert leverage over them.

Since wages and benefits are similar in all of the contracts, the main issue is what Fageaux charged are two or three companies that use computer technology to bypass OCU workers and route documentation to workers in other locations. He said, for example, that one company allegedly led the filers to believe the shipping documents were being routed through Texas when in fact they were being sent to Taipei

Berry responded that the contracts include an established grievance process through which the OCU can file its complaints against a company with a Labor Relations Council. The process is effective and expeditious, and avoids the possibility of a company being isolated and penalized during the negotiation process, Berry said.

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