Lengthy ILWU contract talks possible, port official warns
A Port of Long Beach official cautioned that West Coast dock employers and International Longshore and Warehouse Union may not reach an agreement on a new contract by June 30, when their current contract expires.
“The contract will probably not be signed on June 30 because if you are a labor person, you have to go back to your management and say you’re fighting the fight,” said Ken Uriu, marketing manager for the port.
“Don’t be alarmed when the contract is not signed,” he said, adding ports would remain open if extended talks are needed.
Speaking during a Sunday morning panel discussion at the National Industrial Transportation League's conference in Houston, Uriu said West Coast ports will continue to be a viable option for cargo during negotiations, however protracted they may become, but warned shippers should have a contingency plan regardless of the current labor situation in the West Coast ports.
“Yes, I would like to say move everything through Southern California, but that’s not practical for everyone,” he said.
Uriu predicted that major issues in the negotiations will include pension costs and ILWU jurisdiction over repair and maintenance of chassis
He noted the Federal Maritime Commission has allowed Long Beach and Los Angeles to have a discussion agreement about creation of a chassis pool.
Uriu said ports are eager to avoid an impasse such as that experienced in 2002, when a 10-day lockout of ILWU members shut down container terminals along the West Coast. That led to a subsequent shift to other ports, and Uriu said officials do not want a repeat of that situation.
“They realized that cargo owners such as yourselves have a choice, so it is in their best interest to not disturb your routing and to continue to have it go through California as much as possible,” he said.
To close the panel, which addressed adapting to challenges in the transportation market and using data to weather those issues, Uriu urged shippers to "have a plan in place, practice your plan and continue to reassess your plan to see that it fits your needs for the future."
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