West Coast dock talks reach crisis stage

West Coast dock talks reach crisis stage

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - In the next few days, the West Coast longshore contract talks could resolve into agreement, or devolve into a lockout.

The Pacific Maritime Association, issuing an apparent final offer, says it might as well shut down the docks if the offer isn't accepted.

"This offer puts us all-in," said PMA President Jim McKenna.

The International Longshore & Warehouse Union's first response is that it would be wrong to shut down the docks when the two sides are so close.

"Closing the ports at this point would be reckless and irresponsible," said ILWU President Robert McEllrath.

Well-organized and performing work that is vital to the economy, longshore workers earn an average $147,000 a year. PMA says it is offering a five-year contract with an annual raises of about 3%.

Management also says it is giving the union two of its most important demands, a continuation of high-end medical coverage that is entirely paid for by employers, and an expansion of union jurisdiction to cover truck chassis repair work. It also says the maximum pension would rise to $88,800 per year.

The last contract expired at the end of June.

PMA says ILWU has recently been making fresh demands and has been slowing down work on the docks.

ILWU says the principal cause of port congestion are failures of terminal operations to adequately prepare for massive new containerships.

Truck drivers serving the ports also accuse the terminals of driving some of their colleagues away by making their independent contractors who aren't paid while waiting in line to load or unload. As drivers find other work, the supply of truck drivers is reduced.

Effect on Hawaii

Hawaii has so far escaped major effects of the West Coast situation.

The containerships that sail between Hawaii and the West Coast are small compared to the monster ships sailing from Hong Kong. Matson has its own small terminal, which has not had the labor staffing problems that bigger terminals have had.

If there is a lockout by the terminal operators, Hawaii officials may be able to secure an exemption for Hawaii cargo, as happened in 2002.

If there is a settlement instead of a lockout, ILWU then negotiates a contract for Hawaii longshore workers, patterned after the West Coast agreement.

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