To collapsing banks and rising fuel prices, add laggard dockworkers to the plagues afflicting the U.S. economy.
As San Francisco-based negotiations drag on between the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) and the shippers syndicate Pacific Maritime Association, (PMA) dockworkers have begun flexing their muscles by slowing down cargo traffic at west coast ports, reports the shipping newsletter Traffic World.
During mid July workers slowed car movement on 10 percent of ships, Traffic World quoted a PMA spokesman as saying. And on July 21, pace slowed on a quarter of ships, in an apparent show of force by union members keen on continuing their status as America’s most highly paid industrial laborers.
The ILWU, which represents 25,000 dockworkers on the Pacific coast, in March began negotiating a new six-year coastwide labor contract with shippers. The last time the contract was up for negotiation in 2002 shippers attempted to break the union by shutting down 29 West Coast ports for 10 days. In statements preceding the March talks both sides suggested the current negotiation round would be more peaceful.
However, as negotiations in San Francisco began touching on contentious issues such as worker safety and pensions last week, workers in Los Angeles and Long Beach began lagging, posing the implicit threat of further slowdowns, or even stoppages, if the workers’ demands aren’t met, a PMA spokesman claimed.
According to the Traffic World story, union spokesman Craig Merrilees did not comment on the PMA claim that work had slowed down, saying only that talks were ongoing. --Matt Smith