Northwest grain terminal owners, longshore union resume talks Tuesday as lockout looms

By Richard Read, December 10, 2012, The Oregonian

As a potential lockout looms, federal mediators have scheduled more contract talks Tuesday and Wednesday between the longshore union and Northwest grain terminal owners, according to the employers’ group.

A statement from the Pacific Northwest Grain Handlers Association, which includes owners of six terminals in Portland, Vancouver and the Puget Sound, said the union didn’t respond by a Saturday deadline to a contract offer that the group had termed final.

“While the grain handlers are aware of nothing that changes our conclusions that we are at a bargaining impasse, we agreed to the meetings requested by the federal mediators and will approach them with an open mind,” the employers’ statement said. “The grain handlers continue in full operation and have no present plans for a lockout.”

Grain industry lawyers say that if terminal owners can prove the talks reached impasse, they gain legal authority to impose a contract on the terms of their final offer once longshoremen return to work after a lockout. Meanwhile, the employers’ statement said, “The grain handlers continue in full operation and have no present plans for a lockout.”

Reefer ruling

In a separate legal case Monday, U.S. District Judge Michael Simon declined to find the International Longshore and Warehouse Union in contempt of court for actions concerning a spat over jobs at the Port of Portland’s container terminal.

Simon wrote that union officials didn’t violate an injunction he issued by telling shipping lines they would file claims against them each time longshoremen were denied work plugging, unplugging and monitoring refrigerated containers.

Seattle attorneys for the National Labor Relations Board asked Simon for the contempt finding. But the judge ruled Monday that his July 3 ban on slowdowns and stoppages didn’t specifically prohibit the union from acting against the shipping lines.

In a Nov. 21 injunction, however, Simon ordered the union to stop filing the lost-work claims. Litigation continues over the container jobs, which longshoremen claim under a West Coast collective bargaining agreement and Port of Portland officials allot to electricians under a local labor contract.

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