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No Vessel Labor over Weekend, Work resumed Monday

It was announced Friday, February 6, 2015 that all 29 West Coast Ports would be temporarily closed for vessel labor over the weekend.  The PMA Board of directors decided from 5pm on Friday until 8am on Monday, that no vessel labor would be ordered with the exception of dock work, rail work, military, perishables and cruise ships.  Read more here.

West Coasts were expected to resume normal operations on Monday, and have proceeded to do so.  A summary of JOC’s announcement is below. For full article, click here.

According to the Journal of Commerce, “Operations at West Coast ports were scaled back this weekend as employers balanced a need to reduce the container backlogs that are choking marine terminals with a desire to cut labor costs, while work slowdowns by the International Longshore and Warehouse Union show no sign of ending.”

“Some, but not all marine terminals maintained yard and gate operations through the weekend, however.”

What is the reasoning for the Vessel Labor Shutdown?

“Employers in recent weeks have cut back on the unloading of containers from vessels because the yards are too full to accept more containers, the PMA stated. The strategy is to clear as many containers out of the yards as possible at night so vessel unloading can be resumed the next day.

The ILWU disputes that reasoning, saying there is sufficient space at most terminals to support vessel unloading. The union last week released photos showing unused space at several terminals in Los Angeles-Long Beach. The ILWU accuses employers of attempting to intimidate its rank and file.

Employers are also cutting back on expensive vessel work at night to save money. The PMA each weeks documents container moves per crane, per hour, at the ports, and the numbers show that average crane productivity in Seattle, Tacoma and Oakland dropped from the historical level of about 26-28 to below 20.”

This week could be eventful in the contract negotiations. Employers are expected to ramp up the pressure on the union to accept a contract offer.

“The ILWU has been standing firm on what is believed to be the last major issue remaining, which is a demand by the union to be able to unilaterally fire local arbitrators. The time-honored arbitration protocol requires that both the PMA and ILWU must agree that an arbitrator should be fired. McKenna said the arbitration system, which is crucial to quickly addressing waterfront disputes so they do not interrupt productivity in the handling of today’s big ships, would be severely compromised if an arbitrator feared that he or she would be fired for issuing a ruling against the ILWU.”