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PMA suspends weekend US West Coast port vessel operations as dispute goes critical

PMA suspends weekend US West Coast port vessel operations as dispute goes critical
In a ratcheting up of the US West Coast dockworker labour dispute the Pacific Maritime Association (PMA) has suspended vessel loading and unloading operations at 29 ports over the weekend.

After 14 weeks of “go slow” action by members of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) the PMA said its member companies had concluded they could not continue to pay worker premium rates for lower productivity.

“After three months of union slowdowns, it makes no sense to pay extra for less work,” said PMA spokesman Wade Gates, “especially if there is no end in sight to the union’s actions which needlessly brought West Coast ports to the brink of gridlock.”

Yard, gate and rail operations may continue at terminals at the discretion of individual operators over the weekend, with vessel loading and unloading operations restarting on Monday 9 February.

The move sees employers essentially making good on a threat port shutdowns if unions did not agree to the PMA’s new “all-in” offer made on Wednesday.

The Wall Street Journal quoted an ILWU spokesperson as saying: “The PMA is playing a dangerous and unnecessary game of brinkmanship by idling vessels for two days in a not-too-disguised effort to intimidate the ILWU membership.”

US Congressman Alan Lowenthal expressed serious concerns over the move by the PMA and said: “I am deeply discouraged by the PMA’s decision to stop all vessel work at the 29 West Coast ports over the weekend. There is no question that the congestion at port terminals up and down the West Coast is worsening every day.

“The damage being done to our local, regional, and national economies is also growing, impacting not only the ILWU and their employers, but workers across the nation large and small.”