Feds assisting in labor talks at West Coast ports

Updated Jan 9, 2015
Port of Long BeachPort of Long Beach

The International Longshore and Warehouse Union and Pacific Maritime Association are receiving federal assistance in contract negotiations after both requested help.

The U.S. Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service agreed to help after receiving the joint request. However, agency policy prohibits it from providing comment on negotiations, status updates or meeting information, according to its Jan. 5 service announcement.

Unrest over labor negotiations have made the already overly jammed ports even more inefficient in the last year and a half, and analysts have said the slowdowns at the ports contribute to inefficiencies in freight flow nationwide.

The PMA, which represent West Coast port employers, began negotiations in May with the dock and clerical workers union. The union agreed to a temporary contract extension after their contract expired July 1, but refused another extension late last fall.

Many business organizations have requested federal help in resolving the issue.

The PMA says the union began withholding critically skilled workers from their shifts in November. It estimates qualified crane operator shifts have decreased dropped from more than 110 per day to less than 35 per day and productivity at Pacific Northwest ports has declined as much as 60 percent, the association stated Dec. 29.

That day, the ILWU issued a statement that key PMA members needed to participate in negotiations.