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Angry rhetoric in West Coast dockside labor negotiations intensifies

Logistics Management

As contract negotiations resume today between the Pacific Maritime Association (PMA) and the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU), a war of words and allegations has escalated in the trade press. In a statement released this morning, the ILWU said the PMA “dishonestly” accuses the union of breaking a spoken agreement that port operations would continue under the auspices of a temporary contract extension.

According to ILWU spokesman, Craig Merrilees, the union has bargained in good faith despite “pressure tactics” imposed by the PMA over the past six months.  These include the shifting of ocean container chassis away from union crews, and refusing to bargain a training program for longshore workers as terminals become more mechanized.

“Today’s unilateral media blitz by PMA will only delay progress at a critical point in the contract negotiations,” said Merrilees. “Delays at the negotiating table are also reflected in the growing congestion problem at Major West Coast ports.

Major U.S. exporters seem sympathetic to this perspective, noting that a variety of other factors are contributing to the choke points.  “There are many and complex components to the current crisis,” said Peter Friedmann, executive director of the Agriculture Transport Coalition (AgTC).

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