Port of Oakland Work Stoppage Ends
By Laurie Greene, CalAgToday reporter
Despite the tentative 5-year coast-wide contract agreement reached on February 20, 2015, between the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) and its 20,000 members at 29 West Coast ports, and the Pacific Maritime Association (PMA) , which represents management for the ports and shipping lines there, ILWU Local 10 has repeatedly engaged in illegal work stoppages at the Port of Oakland, according to PMA, and brought operations to a standstill yesterday at Oakland International Container Terminal, the largest terminal in the Port.
PMA reports that ILWU Local 10 has repeatedly refused to allow yard crane operators to work as directed, reports PMA. These workers are essential to the movement of cargo in and out of the port. The terminal in question follows standard industry practice of hiring two workers for every yard crane – the same as at every other terminal at the port. Yet, ILWU Local 10 refused to allow yard cranes to operate unless that number was increased to three. This is a demand that Local 10 made and dropped during negotiations that led to the tentative agreement.
PMA also claims that Local 10 also refused to allow longshore utility workers to lock and unlock connecting devices between chassis and containers. The use of steady utility workers to perform this work is a longstanding practice at every terminal in the port. And while Local 10 made a demand in bargaining to change this practice, they dropped it in the tentative agreement.
“These repeated work stoppages by Local 10 – which run counter to the tentative agreement reached after more than nine months of negotiations – are the sort of counterproductive activity,” according to PMA, “that has become commonplace in Oakland over the years. Local 10’s current actions are damaging to the PMA member companies, to the shippers whose containers are idled, and to the reputation and future of the Port of Oakland.”
According to a CNN Money report TODAY, Melvin Mackay, president of the ILWU Local 10 at Oakland, denied the union was engaged in the job action and blamed the shutdown on the Pacific Maritime Association (PMA) sending workers home.
“It’s a ploy by the PMA. These members come to go to work,” said Mackay. “But the companies are telling the members to operate the machine with no safety man on the ground. The members want safety. That’s the bottom line.”
An arbitrator ruled the union was engaged in an illegal strike that shut down most of the Oakland operations yesterday, affecting the container terminal — the key operation at the port.
The Oakland port handles the third greatest volume of containers of all West Coast ports–linchpins to trade between the U.S. and Asia– after only the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, which are the nation’s largest ports. It is the sixth largest container port nationwide.
American Shipper reported TODAY, “U.S. container imports are down more than 5 percent in 2015, with the nearly the entire drop attributable to West Coast ports, according to statistics released Wednesday by the trade data firm Zepol Corp.”