West Coast Port contract talks have carried on since May, but the Pacific Maritime Association (PMA) and the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) announced Tuesday that they have reached a tentative agreement on terms for health benefits.
The PMA, which represents port terminal and shipping line operators, and the ILWU, which represents the dockworkers, said maintenance of health benefits (MOB) is an important part of the contract covering nearly 20,000 longshore workers at 29 West Coast ports. The original contract expired July 1, 2014, and although both sides promised no interruptions to shipping, delays, pile-ups and sluggish work at the docks have since been reported.
Neither the PMA nor ILWU publicly disclosed details of the contract negotiations, but benefits were reportedly the biggest point of contention. Both parties were also said to be working out an agreement over a tax that will take effect in 2018 under the Affordable Care Act on certain plans—which the union’s coverage qualifies for—that could cost up to $150 million.
The agreement on health benefit terms is subject to agreement on other issues in the negotiations, according to the statement, and talks are continuing.