West Coast Dockworkers Reach Tentative Deal on Port Automation

Date: Friday, April 21, 2023
Source: Wall Street Journal

West Coast dockworkers reached a tentative agreement with employers regarding automated machinery at cargo terminals, according to sources familiar with the negotiations, clearing one major hurdle in talks on a new contract covering workers at some of the country’s biggest seaports.

The International Longshore and Warehouse Union, which represents more than 22,000 dockworkers at ports from Southern California to Washington state, said Thursday it has reached agreement with employers “on certain key issues.”

A person familiar with the talks said the agreement covered terms over the use of automation, one of the biggest stumbling blocks in negotiations that began nearly a year ago, leaving wages as one of the main dividing points in reaching a new multiyear agreement. The tentative agreement marks the first significant advance in the talks since a pact on healthcare benefits was reached last summer.

The Pacific Maritime Association, which represents shipping lines and terminal operators that employ the workers, usually issues statements jointly with the ILWU on significant issues but was not part of the new announcement.

The PMA released a statement later Thursday saying key issues remain unresolved and that some dockwokers in Southern California continue to disrupt port operations.

A person familiar with the talks said there are still hurdles to overcome related to labor strife at the nation’s busiest container port complex at Los Angeles and Long Beach, where a series of targeted job actions have slowed the movement of goods in recent weeks.

Executives who run private cargo-handling companies at the neighboring Southern California ports say dockworkers have been showing up late for work and raising spurious safety issues with container-handling equipment. Earlier this month, dockworkers in key positions failed to show up for shifts at terminals, effectively shutting down operations for 24 hours.

The PMA, in a statement last week, said such “illegal work actions have disrupted activities at some of the largest and most active terminals in the United States.”

The ports have been operating without a labor contract since last summer, when the previous agreement expired and the sides couldn’t agree on an extension while negotiations continue.

[Read from the original source.]