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PMA in four day shutdown of vessel operations at US West Coast ports

PMA in four day shutdown of vessel operations at US West Coast ports
The Pacific Maritime Association (PMA) is to shutdown vessel operations at US West Coast for four out of the next five days as deadlock continues in contract dispute with International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU).

The PMA is suspending vessel operations at 29 US West Coast ports on 12 February and 14 – 16 February all of which are either weekend days or holidays for which dockworkers are paid extra. Yard, gate and rail operations will continue as normal.

It is the second time the PMA has suspended vessel operations, following a shutdown last weekend.

The PMA said that weekend and holiday pay rates commanded a premium of at least 50% of the basic longshore wage rate. “As a result, working hours on those days would be paid at between $54 and $75 per hour for longshore workers and clerks, and between $77 and $92 per hour for foremen,” it said.

“Last week, PMA made a comprehensive contract offer designed to bring these talks to conclusion,” said PMA spokesman Wade Gates. “The ILWU responded with demands they knew we could not meet, and continued slowdowns that will soon bring West Coast ports to gridlock. What they’re doing amounts to a strike with pay, and we will reduce the extent to which we pay premium rates for such a strike.”

While ILWU has said the two sides are very close to agreement the PMA says it is making demands it cannot meet, in particular the right to fire any arbitrator who rules against the union at the end of each contract period.

The ILWU said that the press release from the PMA “grossly mischaracterised” its negotiating position, and that the employers had cancelled a negotiating session on Wednesday.

“It seems to us that the employers are trying to sabotage negotiations,” said Robert McEllrath, president of the ILWU. “They are not just hurting workers, families and communities, what our employers are doing is bad for the industry and the US economy.”

Meanwhile large numbers of fully loaded containerships sit idle outside US ports, a gallery of pictures is avialable here.