West Coast employers attempt end run around ILWU leadership


Bill Mongelluzzo, February 18, 2015, JOC.com



Some West Coast employers are appealing directly to working longshoremen to scrutinize the details of the Pacific Maritime Association’s contract proposal, with the implication that they should not let this offer slip away because they won’t receive a better one.


Some employers Wednesday posted at their terminals a two-page letter from James McKenna, the PMA’s president and CEO, to PMA members detailing the improvements in wages and benefits that working longshoremen will receive under PMA’s contract offer that has been on the table since Feb. 12.


The PMA suspects that International Longshore and Warehouse Union negotiators have not shared with the rank and file the details of what employers believe to be a generous contract offer unrivaled in blue-collar America. The letter addresses coastwide provisions shared by all longshoremen, and contractual issues specific to the various port ranges.


The coastwide proposal offers a wage increase of $1 per hour each year for the five-year life of the proposed contract duration. This would raise the hourly wage to $40.68 in the final year of the contract. PMA has stated previously that due to skill differential payments, overtime and other escalators, the average earnings for full-time longshoremen last year were $147,000.


Maximum pensions would increase from $79,920 to $91,020 in the final year of the contract. As for benefits, the letter states that longshoremen would be guaranteed “maintenance of benefits, still no premiums and 100 percent coverage with no deductibles or co-pays for in-network services, and no changes to co-pays, deductible and out-of-pocket maximums for out-of-network coverage, and still $1 co-pay for prescription drugs — plus new benefits.”


The pay guarantee plan, which ensures that Class “A” longshoremen receive wages even if there are reduced work opportunities, will be improved. The PGP guarantee will increase from 37.5 hours per week to 40 hours per week. This provision could have special meaning for longshoremen in Portland, for example. Hanjin Shipping Co. on Tuesday announced it will pull out of Portland because of reduced productivity since June of 2012. Hanjin accounts for 78 percent of the port’s container volume, so Class “A” longshoremen would see their PGP guarantee increase to 40 hours per week if work opportunities are reduced.


The letter provides more details on the chassis maintenance provision that is of great interest to ILWU mechanics as well as equipment providers and owners. The provision calls for “mandatory eight-point roadability inspection program for all chassis except in Section 1.81 “red-circled facilities” (where a non-ILWU union has jurisdiction) and for chassis owned by an independent truck driver or trucking company for the ports of Los Angeles-Long Beach, Oakland, Seattle, Tacoma and Portland.”


The PMA proposal contains additional items at both the coast level and the regional levels.


The letter concluded with an obvious appeal to the rank and file that these benefits are in limbo because of one major issue that employers believe would be injurious to the smooth operation of West Coast ports while offering no tangible benefits to working longshoremen.


“Although there are several issues open, the critical remaining issue is the union demand to change the long-standing procedure for retaining arbitrators and/or to unilaterally dismiss both current California arbitrators. This demand would undermine the independence of the arbitrators and the fairness of the arbitration process.”


The contract negotiations, which began on May 12, 2014, have been held under the auspices of a Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service mediator since Jan. 6. On Tuesday, President Obama sent U.S. Secretary of Labor Thomas E. Perez to San Francisco to offer assistance in the negotiations.

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