Bill Mongelluzzo, July 19, 2014, JOC.com
Contract negotiations between the International Longshore and Warehouse Union and the Pacific Maritime Association will resume on Wednesday after a recess Monday and Tuesday for a previously scheduled longshore division caucus.
A joint ILWU-PMA statement at the weekend said the previous contract, which expired July 1, would not be extended while negotiations are recessed. However, the union and employers said, “While there is no contract extension in place, both parties have pledged to keep cargo moving.”
Though it isn’t unusual for the ILWU to call caucuses from time to time, next week’s meetings “will certainly cover the contract negotiations,” ILWU spokesman Craig Merrilees said.
Caucus members are democratically chosen delegates elected from each local union. Those delegates determine the agenda and the topics to be discussed.
“Caucus meetings are held as needed. This one was scheduled some time ago,” Merrilees said.
Earlier this month, the union agreed to extend its previous contract when talks recessed for three days so the ILWU could participate in contract negotiations with grain handlers in the Pacific Northwest. The grain contract is not related to the ILWU-PMA contract, and the grain handlers are not members of the PMA.
During that recess, the Teamsters union set up pickets at several container terminals in Los Angeles-Long Beach in support of striking drivers who were targeting three harbor trucking companies. ILWU members at those terminals walked off their jobs.
Because the previous ILWU contract was back in place, employers used the grievance procedure to call in an area arbitrator who ruled that the pickets were not “bona fide” under the waterfront contract, and the longshoremen were ordered back to work.
Since then, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti brokered a deal between the drivers and trucking companies and the pickets have been removed from the harbor.
The joint PMA-ILWU statement at the weekend also noted that the coastwide negotiations would recess on July 28 to Aug. 1 so ILWU negotiators can return to the Pacific Northwest to resume negotiations with grain handlers.
The ILWU and the PMA are not releasing information about the coastwide contract negotiations. Although cargo interests are concerned the negotiations have continued almost three weeks past the July 1 deadline without an agreement, cargo volumes at West Coast ports remain strong.
Weekly tabulations of ILWU man-hours paid show that in Los Angeles-Long Beach man-hours in May through early July were running 20 to 30 percent above the same weeks last year.