Friday, September 27, 2002

Framed through the base of a crane, swingman Felecia Grundtisch aligned the driver of a truck with a crane that moved a container to a cargo ship at the Port of Long Beach, Calif. A day after some ground had been covered, negotiations between the International Warehouse and Longshore Union and shippers deteriorated.

Dock workers
locked out

By Justin Pritchard
Associated Press

SAN FRANCISCO >> The association representing shipping lines locked out longshoremen at all West Coast ports until Sunday morning as part of what it called a "cooling-off period" in contract negotiations.

The announcement today came after the Pacific Maritime Association, which represents shipping lines and terminal operators, accused the longshoremen's union of slowing down the pace of work as a tactic to gain leverage in the increasingly acrimonious talks.

The Pacific Maritime Association board met this morning and agreed on the lockout, according to president Joseph Miniace.

The lockout was scheduled to begin at 9 p.m.

Miniace called it "a very, very tough decision," but one the association had to make because the union was bargaining in bad faith.

"It's the very last thing we wanted to do. But the union forced us into this," he said.

A spokesman for the International Longshore and Warehouse Union, which represents 10,500 workers at all 29 major Pacific ports, said the association was acting unilaterally and that union negotiators wanted to keep talking. The union learned of the lockout this morning, spokesman Jeremy Prillwitz said.

The two sides have been bargaining over a new contract for months, but talks have steadily deteriorated. Yesterday, the union issued a directive, telling the workers it represents to work in strict accordance with all safety and health rules.

The association said longshoremen were slowing the pace of work at ports in Los Angeles, Oakland, Portland, Ore., Seattle and Tacoma, Wash.

The disruption could deal a blow to the U.S. economy and stanch the flow of products from Asia just as importers are distributing holiday goods.

The association has released figures saying that a coastwide labor disruption could cost the U.S. economy about $1 billion per day. The ports handle more than $300 billion in imports and exports each year.

The talks crumbled this week over the question of how to implement new technology, an issue shipping lines have stressed they must resolve before signing a new contract.

The union says it doesn't oppose new technology, but wants guarantees that positions created by technological advances are union-covered.

The association says a growth in trade will translate into more union jobs over time, but the union shouldn't dictate that it gets every new job created by new technology.

Pacific Maritime Association

International Longshore and Warehouse Union

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