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West Coast Port Operations Approach Gridlock

Eight months after coast-wide contract talks began and one week after a federal mediator agreed to step in, operations at the West Coast port terminals are approaching gridlock.

The Pacific Maritime Association, which represents the employers, said Monday that the International Longshore and Warehouse Union’s (ILWU) move to slow dockworkers’ pace and withhold vital equipment operators has put the port terminals in peril of “complete gridlock.”

Since the federal mediator joined the talks, no further progress has been made and the slowdowns and pile-ups have persisted.

According to the PMA, the ILWU has withheld an average of 75 yard crane drivers each day, stalling an estimated tens of thousands of containers. Since Nov. 3, the ILWU has reduced the yard crane operator positions in Southern California by 67 percent.

“ILWU members, among the highest paid union workers in America, are receiving full wages and benefits while stifling productivity and putting West Coast port terminals at the brink of full shutdown. To date, the ILWU and PMA have reached tentative agreements on health care and increases to pay guarantees. That tentative agreement provides fully employer-paid health care benefits valued at $35,000 per worker annually. PMA also has proposed pay increases and pension enhancements. There are no takeaways in the PMA proposal,” the statement noted.

PMA spokesperson Steve Getzug said, “The PMA has a sense of urgency to resolve these contract talks and get our ports moving again.” He added, “Unfortunately, it appears the Union’s motivation is to continue slowdowns in an attempt to gain leverage in the bargaining. The ILWU slowdowns and the resulting operational environment are no longer sustainable.”

The PMA said it has alerted local port authorities to the deteriorating situation on the docks.