Settlement on the West Coast docks

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - The Pacific Maritime Association, representing West Coast port terminals, and the International Longshore & Warehouse Union, representing their workers, confirm a Friday evening settlement after nine months of contract talks.

Both sides are calling it a five-year agreement but said details are facedown until the proposed contract can be presented to longshore workers at 29 West Coast ports. The ILWU usually follows ratification of a West Coast contract with negotiations toward a similar agreement in Hawaii.

"We are also pleased that our ports can now resume full operations," PMA President James McKenna and ILWU President Bob Ellrath said in a joint statement in San Francisco.

This means the lifting of PMA's order to request no labor for vessel loading or unloading over the weekend, a decision that will benefit Hawaii because both Matson and Horizon had West Coast vessel work to do this weekend.

Labor Secretary Tom Perez, who joined the talks this week at President Obama's order, reportedly gave the two sides until Friday night to settle or he would move the talks to Washington D.C. Observers said Perez did not have the legal authority to make that happen but it would be hard for either side to say no.

The Wall Street Journal reported the final sticking point, resolved through a compromise that has not yet been detailed, concerned a union demand to be able to replace arbitrators. The Los Angeles Times reported that the matter stemmed from one specific arbitrator for southern California, a former ILWU clerk who confirmed it was about him but said he didn't understand it because most of his rulings sided with the union. Arbitrators decide safety issues, which arise frequently in shipping terminals.

The last contract expired July 1. After Thanksgiving, PMA began accusing ILWU of a work slowdown, chiefly by sending too few crane operators. Then, in recent weeks management began slowing work itself by no longer requesting labor for vessel loading and unloading on weekends or holidays when labor would be paid a 50% differential.

Before the arbitrator issue arose, it had been reported that management had agreed to annual raises of about 3% along with continued company funding of full medical benefits.

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