News ILWU recesses caucus, awaits PMA response to contract proposal posted on 17th December 2014 08:36:17 AM Bill Mongelluzzo, Senior Editor The International Longshore and Warehouse Union today recessed the caucus that it opened on Monday as the union awaited a response from the Pacific Maritime Association on its latest contract proposal. Last Thursday, the PMA presented a new contract offer to the ILWU. Union negotiators reviewed the proposal over the weekend, and on Monday returned it to the PMA with the ILWU’s comments. That is where the negotiations stood today. PMA spokesman Steve Getzug said employers continued to review the document, and they expect to meet again with the ILWU later this week. No date was given. ILWU spokesman Craig Merrilees said the union caucus completed its work for now, and the approximately 90 representatives were returning home today to their home ports. The caucus can be reconvened on short notice, he said. When the ILWU negotiating team receives an offer that it deems acceptable, the caucus will reconvene. If the caucus approves the document, the tentative contract will be presented to the general membership for a vote. The voting process can take several weeks. PMA said the ILWU work slowdowns that began in late October, and the union’s refusal to dispatch sufficient skilled operators in Los Angeles-Long Beach, continue to harm productivity at U.S.West Coast ports. However, the Marine Exchange of Southern California today reported that there were two container ships at anchor. That was two fewer than on Monday, and the lowest count in recent weeks, which could indicate that container volumes have dropped off considerably now during this slack end-of-the year period. ILWU contract talks held again on Sunday posted on 8th December 2014 10:26:06 AM Bill Mongelluzzo, Senior Editor Negotiations between the International Longshore and Warehouse Union and the Pacific Maritime Association were held on Sunday as the two parties completed a weekend of face-to-face talks. Nevertheless, the ILWU maintained its work slowdowns in the Pacific Northwest and in Los Angeles-Long Beach, a PMA spokesman said Sunday. Employers say the work slowdowns are a major factor contributing to port congestion on the West Coast. Containers have backed up on the docks and some vessels must wait at anchor before they can berth. According to the Marine Exchange of Southern California, eight vessels were at anchor Sunday morning, the same number as Saturday. Just one week remains before the ILWU is scheduled to hold a caucus in San Francisco. If the PMA and ILWU can agree upon a tentative contract by Dec. 15, the caucus will direct negotiators whether to accept or reject the agreement. Once a tentative contract is reached, it could take several weeks for the membership of the ILWU and the PMA to ratify the contract. The negotiations have been underway since May. Caucus will determine whether ILWU signs tentative contract or not posted on 5th December 2014 12:02:58 PM Bill Mongelluzzo, Senior Editor LONG BEACH, California — U.S. West Coast contract negotiations could go one of two ways when the International Longshore and Warehouse Union convenes a caucus in San Francisco in the week beginning Dec. 15. If the ILWU leadership believes there is enough substance in what has been negotiated by then, it would seek authorization to sign a tentative contract that would then have to be approved in a vote by the rank and file in the ensuing weeks. Conversely, if the union’s leaders are not comfortable with what they have to present to the caucus, they would decide to return to the negotiating table with the Pacific Maritime Association. That latter option could be devastating. With the Christmas holidays at hand, no significant progress in negotiations could be expected for the rest of the month. Extending the contract negotiations into 2015 would be extremely costly for shipping lines, terminal operators and especially the importers and exporters who depend upon the U.S.West Coast gateways. Cargo interests represented by dozens of trade organizations have been clamoring for a quick resolution to the contract negotiations before the talks even began back in May. More recently, those groups have been calling for federal mediation to expedite an agreement. Since the government will usually call in a mediator only if the PMA and ILWU request one, the prospect of prolonged negotiations could force the hand of employers. For example, the Agriculture Transportation Coalition hosted a meeting of Washington farmers and business leaders in Seattle to call for resolution of a contract and to highlight the economic impact ILWU slowdowns at the ports of Seattle and Tacoma are having on the state’s businesses and workers. “Our 100-plus hourly workers are seeing up to a 40-percent reduction in hours from earlier this year,” said Blaine Calaway, vice president of sales, China, at Calaway Trading. “Calculating overtime, that means it could be upwards of a $150 loss a week per person,” he said. Longshoremen up and down the West Coast, however, are not suffering due to the ILWU work slowdowns the PMA says have been underway at all of the major gateways since late October. Man-hours paid to longshoremen in November were 26 percent higher than during November 2013, according to numbers posted on the PMA website for Los Angeles-Long Beach, which handles about 70 percent of the container volume that moves through the West Coast. However, total container volume year-to-date through the nation’s busiest port complex was up only 4 percent compared to last year, according to the PMA. That means longshoremen have been receiving large paychecks while many employees at the hundreds of importing and exporting companies that ship through the West Coast have been hurting. According to the PMA annual report for 2013, the average annual earnings for a full-time Class “A” longshoreman who worked at least 2,000 hours last year were $137,253. The average earnings for an ILWU marine clerk who worked at least 2,000 hours were $154,842, while the average earnings for full-time ILWU foremen in 2013 were $213,120. The average earnings could be higher this year due to the extra hours being worked. “The ILWU has its calendar and its slowdowns — all of which have created worsening economic conditions for people who make a living off cargo moving through the West Coast ports. In recent weeks, the ILWU has not demonstrated any urgency in reaching a fair and balanced agreement any time soon," the PMA said. Trade organizations representing importers, exporters and other businesses that make their livings through port activities say the ILWU has no sense of urgency to reach a contract settlement because longshoremen are profiting from the port congestion that they are in part responsible for. When a new contract is reached, if past is precedent, the wage increase in the new contract will be paid retroactively from the July 1 expiration of the old contract. Shipping lines are incurring millions of dollars of losses due to port congestion and ILWU work slowdowns because their vessels are being thrown off schedule and are forced to wait at anchor for berths. A Port of Tacoma spokeswoman said international containerships are experiencing delays of 12-15 days upon reaching port. The Marine Exchange of Southern California reported Wednesday morning that five containerships were waiting at anchor outside the ports. That was up from three container vessels at anchor on Tuesday. The question that cargo interests are anxious to have answered is what outstanding issues remain after seven months of contract negotiations? The one point that the PMA and ILWU seem to have agreed upon is not to discuss the contents of the contract talks outside of the negotiations, so that question can not be answered at this time. The PMA and ILWU in late August issued a joint press release stating that a tentative agreement had been reached on medical benefits. That was assumed to be one of the most controversial contract issues entering into the negotiations. Terminal operators can not continue indefinitely to pay 26 percent more in labor costs each week than they did in 2013 for handling only a 4 percent increase in cargo. Shippers of perishable agricultural products are suffering even more. AgTC members in the Pacific Northwest report that the port slowdowns have “left produce rotting and crippled their ability to fulfill contracts. They also told stories of having to lay off employees while reducing the hours of others right as the holiday season approaches,” AgTC stated in a press release Wednesday. “These individuals are worried about how to keep food on the table and buy Christmas presents,” Calaway said. The ILWU caucus is set to begin on Dec. 15 and could last up to a week, if necessary. Once a tentative agreement is reached, it could take several weeks to complete the voting process at the local ports. ILWU, PMA contract negotiations resume posted on 3rd December 2014 03:04:15 PM Bill Mongelluzzo, Senior Editor | Dec 02, 2014 LONG BEACH, California — Contract negotiations between the International Longshore and Warehouse Union and the Pacific Maritime Association resumed this afternoon in San Francisco. Both parties had spent the past day meeting internally to prepare for the return to face-to-face negotiations. Shippers had expressed dissapointment with the Nov. 21 announcement that both sides wouldn't return to the "big table" till today. Meanwhile, West Coast ports continued to whittle away at the backlog of vessels and containers that had accumulated over the Thanksgiving weekend. The Marine Exchange of Southern California on Tuesday issued one of its better updates of recent weeks. Three containerships were at anchor awaiting berth in Los Angeles-Long Beach. That was down from six container vessels at anchor on Monday. The trans-Pacific trade has entered the normal slack period that follows the peak-shipping season in late summer and autumn. Cargo volumes should pick up again in January leading up to the Chinese New Year celebrations in February. Manufacturers in Asia will close out their orders before shutting down for about two weeks during the celebrations. Contract negotiations began in May. The ILWU has been working without a contract since the previous agreement expired on July 1. The ILWU began to engage in work slowdowns in Late October, and those job actions continue to contribute to port congestion at West Coast ports, the PMA stated. The ILWU rejects PMA claims that it is engaging in slowdowns, and blames carriers’ exit of the chassis business and the larger vessels overwhelming marine terminals for port congestion. ILWU, PMA won't get back to "big table" until December posted on 26th November 2014 09:43:33 AM Bill Mongelluzzo, Senior Editor | Nov 20, 2014 LONG BEACH, California — The International Longshore and Warehouse Union and the Pacific Maritime Association will not have a contract settlement until December at the earliest because the ILWU is suspending negotiations on coastwide issues until Dec. 2, according to the employers’ organization. ILWU work slowdowns that have contributed to terminal congestion at West Coast ports will likely continue as well because the ILWU turned down a request to extend the previous contract so employers would be able at least to seek arbitration to end the job actions. “Three weeks after initiating a coordinated series of slowdowns that have plagued the major West Coast ports of Tacoma, Seattle, Oakland, Los Angeles and Long Beach, the ILWU has now taken its slowdown tactics to the bargaining table,” PMA stated Thursday in press release. Despite “multiple requests” from PMA to continue bargaining, the ILWU on Thursday called a 12-day suspension of “big-table” talks, which refers to negotiations on coastwide issues, the employers stated. Subcommittee talks, which involve mostly issues at the individual port level, will continue, however, the ILWU confirmed. In fact, the ILWU believes that continuing the subcommittee talks can help to expedite an agreement. “Subcommittees focused on specific tasks and problems is the fastest way to make progress on a number of issues that require attention so that further progress can be made by the full committee. The talks are continuing and negotiations are underway this afternoon,” ILWU spokesman Craig Merrilees said Thursday. Meanwhile, the ILWU work slowdowns that began Oct. 31 in Tacoma and have spread to all major West Coast ports continue, PMA stated. The union is intentionally shorting terminals in Los Angeles-Long Beach of critical skilled labor needed to keep the container yards fluid, while crane productivity in the northern ports remains as much as 30 percent below normal, PMA charged. The situation in Southern California is especially damaging to importers with the holiday shopping season just one week away. The largest U.S. port complex handles more than 40 percent of U.S. imports, according to PIERS, the data research arm of the JOC Group. “The ILWU has knowingly made the situation in Southern California worse by failing to dispatch qualified crane operators per longstanding practice -- the same skilled workers who can help to alleviate yard congestion. Union leaders have made clear that they will continue this unilateral change in practice until a new coastwide agreement is reached,” PMA stated. U.S. exporters of apples, potatoes, hay and Christmas trees are experiencing serious delays in the peak of the harvest as they attempt to ship through Seattle and Tacoma, PMA added. PMA attempted to get the ILWU to agree to extension of its previous contract while the big-table negotiations on coastwide issues are suspended for 12 days. The contract has grievance machinery that allows both parties to seek arbitration when there are claims involving health and safety or when a terminal operator charges that longshoremen are engaging in work slowdowns. Arbitration can take a matter of a few hours. All West Coast ports are experiencing congestion and delays, which are being made worse by the ILWU job actions, the PMA said. West Coast congestion expected to worsen over Thanksgiving weekend posted on 26th November 2014 09:34:29 AM Bill Mongelluzzo, Senior Editor | Nov 25, 2014 Congestion at West Coast ports could get slightly worse over the Thanksgiving weekend as longshoremen and employers take time off to celebrate the holiday. Thanksgiving is a no-work holiday for the International Longshore and Warehouse Union. That means terminals will be closed for the day and no cargo-handling will take place. Friday is a work day, although in past years registered longshoremen took that day off as well, so part-time longshoremen, known as casuals, comprise a larger percentage of the work force. In past years, an extended Thanksgiving holiday break was not an issue. West Coast ports were already experiencing slack-season container volumes because almost all of the holiday merchandise had already moved through the ports and was on store shelves ready for Black Friday sales. While it is true that many retailers this year moved merchandise into the U.S. earlier than usual in anticipation of the July 1 expiration of the ILWU contract, West Coast ports have experienced far more congestion than normal due to a range of operational issues such as chassis and driver shortages and intermodal rail service problems. Also, the Pacific Maritime Association has charged that ILWU work slowdowns since late October have made the congestion problems even worse. Therefore, although there should be sufficient merchandise on store shelves for Black Friday, continued port congestion problems could affect the ability of stores to restock after the holiday. Also, importers will be looking ahead to Chinese New Year on Feb. 19, when many factories in Asia close for about two weeks. January will see a spike in shipments as factories move as much merchandise as possible before they shut down for the Chinese New Year celebrations. Trade organizations that represent importers and exporters continue to press the ILWU and PMA to reach agreement on a new contract as quickly as possible. According to the PMA, longshoremen on Oct. 31 began a series of work slowdowns in Seattle, Tacoma and Oakland. Also, the ILWU in Los Angeles-Long Beach has refused to dispatch sufficient skilled workers to operate cargo-handling equipment in the already congested terminals, the PMA stated. The ILWU denies it is engaging in work slowdowns, and blames port congestion on a dozen or so operational issues. Port congestion has also affected inland transportation. Trucking companies continue to report long wait times at the ports, and trucking companies at inland locations report problems due to interruptions in the delivery of intermodal shipments. BNSF Railway beginning on Nov. 20 implemented gate restrictions at Logistics Park Chicago on empty containers destined for the ports of Seattle and Tacoma. Similar gate restrictions have also been implemented in Cicero, Illinois, St. Paul, Minnesota, Denver and Omaha for empties bound for the Pacific Northwest ports. “The reduction in labor productivity at the Pacific Northwest marine terminals continues to impact BNSF’s normal service to and from the ports in Seattle and Tacoma, said BNSF spokeswoman Amy Casas. The PMA on Tuesday said ILWU work slowdowns and a refusal to dispatch enough skilled equipment operators in Southern California continued. The Marine Exchange of Southern California said six container ships were at anchor and awaiting berths on Tuesday. That was down by two ships from Monday. The ILWU reported that subcommittee negotiations were held on Monday in San Francisco, and spokesman Craig Merrilees described the discussions as “very productive and positive.” Both sides agreed to spend Tuesday working independently on various issues as allocated by the subcommittee parties for “big-table” consideration. “If necessary, the subcommittee parties will reconvene Wednesday,” Merrilees said. Potential Chicago drayage shortage awaits LA-LB shippers posted on 26th November 2014 09:30:34 AM Mark Szakonyi, Associate Managing Editor | Nov 25, 2014 2:59PM EST Shippers face another round of woes even after their stalled containers move from congested Los Angeles-Long Beach via intermodal rail to Chicago. The surge intermodal volume from Southern California to Chicago ahead of the holiday shopping season could be too much for Windy City drayage drivers, and some shippers could get hit with demurrage charges because of a lack of trucking capacity. Demurrage fees on containers and chassis range generally between $100 and $175. Drayage operators are getting nervous. Several drayage companies told JOC.com they don’t know when they’ll see an increase in cargo from LA-LB, but they know it hasn’t hit the Windy City yet. Operators say they hope volume steadily builds, instead of spiking and testing their capacity further. The colder weather is already raising concerns of just how much drayage capacity will be available when goods means for post-Black Friday restocking arrive. The severe 2013-2014 winter gridlocked Chicago, with many drayage drivers unable to start their rigs and trains held for weeks. “I’m already hearing of drivers (from other companies) calling off work,” said Mike Uka, operations manager at Uka Trans. “It’s mainly due to weather maintenance issues. People are winterizing their trucks.” There has been more demand for drayage drivers via LoadMatch.com, but that’s largely a result of the shorter work week and cold weather cutting down on capacity, Jason Hilsenbeck, founder and president of LoadMatch, told JOC.com. In a further sign that the slowdown in drayage demand is caused by LA-LB congestion, drivers say they are busy moving loads from Canadian National Railway and Canadian Pacific Railway terminals but not for Union Pacific and BNSF, the two Class I railroads that connect Southern California to Chicago. “We are lucky demand from CN and CP ramps is keeping up,” said Joe Tovo, president of DNJ Intermodal Services. BNSF said it’s hauling “a good amount” of traffic from LA-LB despite port congestion and other supply chain challenges. UP told JOC.com last month that intermodal shipmemts moving from on-dock intermodal ramps at the largest port in the America could be delayed 24 to 48 hours. The railroad wasn’t immediately available for comment today. Tovo doesn’t expect a drayage pricing war if capacity gets tight when more LA-LB traffic hits Chicago. That’s because the demurrage fees he and other operators would face for not handling contract business offset any gains from grabbing new business. That leaves shippers — even those willing to pay more — will few options if they can’t find drayage drivers to pick up their loads at Chicago-area ramps. “They’re pretty much have get in line and wait,” Tovo said.