UPDATED: Nine Months of PMA and ILWU Negotiations Could be Coming to a Close

UPDATE  |  In response to the Pacific Maritime Association’s threat to shut down West Coast ports, International Longshore & Warehouse Union President Robert McEllrath stated in a release sent out Thursday that “[w]hat the ILWU heard yesterday is a man who makes about one million dollars a year telling the working class that we have more than our share. Intensifying the rhetoric at this stage of bargaining, when we are just a few issues from reaching an agreement, is totally unnecessary and counterproductive.”

PMA President James C. McKenna blamed the slowdowns on ILWU workers in the PMA release sent out on Wednesday while, according to City News Service, ILWU officials say their employer is only allowing certified crane operators to work.

With the PMA’s recent offer on the table, Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia and Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti issued a joint statement that said, The Los Angeles and Long Beach ports “are important engines for our local and national economy, so it is critical that both the ILWU and PMA continue talking to quickly reach an agreement and return our ports to efficient operations.”

“The employers’ threat to shut down West Coast ports is a reckless and unnecessary move,” said McEllrath in a statement. “What the employers need to do is stay at the negotiating table and work through a few remaining issues with the workers who have made them successful for the past 80 years. We are very close to reaching an agreement.”

PREVIOUSLY  02/05/15 11:55AM  |  Both the Pacific Maritime Association and International Longshore & Warehouse Union issued press releases on Wednesday, the PMA stating that they have offered the ILWU an “all-in” contract to prevent the lockdown of West coast ports and the ILWU urging its workers to stay strong and to stay at the negotiating table.

The PMA has announced that they have made the ILWU an offer for an “all-in” contract, according to their release, that would “significantly increase compensation to members of the ILWU.” The offer was made in the hope of bringing negotiations to a close and comes after three months of talks and slowed productivity at major West Coast ports.

“Our members have shown tremendous restraint in the face of ILWU slowdowns that have cut productivity by as much as 30, 40, even 50 percent,” said PMA President Jim McKenna in a statement. “This offer puts us all-in as we seek to wrap up these contract talks and return our ports to normal operations.”

The release says that the new offer meets the ILWU’s two largest demands, the “maintenance of their Cadillac health benefits—which feature no worker premiums, no co-pays and no deductibles for in-network benefits” as well as authority over maintaining and repairing truck chassis. According to the PMA, these two issues have exhausted months of negotiations and “in both cases PMA has offered significant concessions to the ILWU.”

The PMA’s offer now calls for a cost increase of about five percent per year over the duration of the five-year contract.

ILWU slowdowns, which the PMA say are now in their 14th week and are hurting operations at ports including Tacoma, Seattle, Oakland, Los Angeles and Long Beach, are prohibited by contract. According to the release, the PMA has requested a contract extension, which would prohibit slowdowns, while the ILWU has dismissed the idea.

In a video announcement and update, PMA President and CEO James C. McKenna says ILWU-caused slowdowns are crippling the ports and goes on to relay the details of the PMA’s most recent offer.

“Unfortunately, as is their practice, the ILWU refuse to extend the old contract until a new agreement was reached,” McKenna says in the video. “Typically, both parties use a well-established arbitration system to mediate disputes, but with no contract in place, there is no arbitration system in place; without an arbitrator, the union can essentially do whatever they want.”

According to the release, the ILWU has recently made new demands that are “trying to change the rules on the waterfront in their favor.”

“The deteriorating situation on the docks is in nobody’s long-term interest,” McKenna said in a statement. “I hope the ILWU leadership will give very serious consideration to this contract offer, which I believe respects their members and gives us a clear path to conclude these talks. We owe it to workers and businesses across the nation to resolve our differences and get our ports moving again.”

In a release issued by the ILWU, President Robert McEllrath was quoted saying, “We’re this close,” in regard to reaching an agreement. “We’ve dropped almost all of our remaining issues to help get this settled—and the few issues that remain can be easily resolved,” he continued.

According to the ILWU release, the union will keep ports open and cargo flowing, despite the congestion crisis they deemed, “employer-caused.”

According to the Union, the ILWU has not participated in a strike over the coast longshore contract since 1971.

“Closing the ports at this point would be reckless and irresponsible,” said McEllrath in a statement.

According to the release, the ILWU is urging dock employers to stay at the negotiating table as well as urging the Federal Mediator to keep both parties talking until this “nearly-finished” agreement has come to a close.

In the video announcement, McKenna says, “Given the generous offer, the continued work slowdown by the ILWU and our earnest attempt over the past nine months to bargain well beyond our comfort zone, the PMA has concluded that the latest offer is as far as we can go at this point.”

McEllrath released a statement on the ILWU website stating, “The Coast negotiating team continues to meet in an effort to reach a fair contract that provides security for its rank and file and stability for the industry despite the propaganda and threats from the PMA. I urge the membership to stay strong and united and ignore PMA’s propaganda. Together we will prevail.”

The ILWU Longshore Division represents 20,000 dockworkers at 29 west coast ports.

The West Coast ports support over 9 million U.S. jobs with a domestic business impact of $2.1 trillion, according to the PMA.

You can see the PMA’s contract offer outline here.

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