• Jay McIntosh

Union vote seals West Coast port contract until 2019

SAN FRANCISCO — Assuring stability at West Coast ports for another four years, the International Longshore and Warehouse Union announced May 22 that its members voted by an overwhelming 82% margin to approve a tentative contract agreement reached in February.

Earlier, the Pacific Maritime Assn., a coalition of the operators of 29 West Coast ports, also formally endorsed the agreement, which is retroactive from July 2014 and will expire on July 1, 2019.

“The negotiations for this contract were some of the longest and most difficult in our recent history,” said ILWU International President Robert McEllrath. “Membership unity and hard work by the Negotiating Committee made this fair outcome possible.”

The agreement affects about 20,000 jobs. The union said it “will maintain excellent health benefits; improve wages, pensions and job safety protections; limit outsourcing of jobs and provide an improved system for resolving job disputes.”

In an earlier statement, the PMA said the agreement would bring changes to the health-care plan intended to foster greater efficiency, cost containment and fraud prevention for the long term, and an enhanced arbitration system designed to support waterfront stability, capacity growth and productivity.

“We look forward to building upon the incredible advantages West Coast ports offer and winning back the trust and confidence of the shipping community,” said Jim McKenna, PMA president and CEO. “This contract provides important tools to accomplish that.”

While National Retail Federation Vice President for Supply Chain and Customs Policy Jonathan Gold was glad to hear of the contract settlement, he warned that the same issues could arise in future negotiations.

“The world is changing, and our ports must adapt to ensure they provide shippers with the predictability and stability they need. We can no longer accept last-minute negotiations and months and months of talks while slowdowns and stoppages disrupt the global supply chain and international trade,” Gold said.

“Negotiators need to begin their talks early enough to have an agreement in place well before another contract expires without active or passive threats to the economy and the millions of jobs dependent on our nation’s ports and supply chain. The current process is impractical and unsustainable and fails to meet even the most basic requirements of a modern, global supply chain,” he said.

He added that a new process is needed for labor and management on both coasts.

“Stakeholders cannot afford to go through this process every couple of years,” Gold said. “We need a new system in place that benefits all parties and provides for the efficient transportation of the nation’s cargo and commerce.”

Jay McIntoshJay McIntosh | News Editor, Furniture Today

Hi! I'm Jay McIntosh, news editor at Furniture/Today, and it's my job to keep track of the issues and events of the day. I'll use this space to offer comments or insights that I hope will bring something new to the table. I welcome your responses and suggestions.

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