Matson-union deal averts strike


POSTED: Sunday, June 28, 2009

Matson Navigation Co. and three unions avoided a widespread shipping strike yesterday after reaching a tentative agreement on a four-year contract for ship captains, officers, radio operators and engineers.

;[Preview]    Matson Strike Delays Hawaii-bound Vessel

The American Radio Association established a picket line in Seattle directed toward the Maui, a Matson-owned vessel that was supposed to arrive in Hawaii next Saturday.

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The agreement came 12 hours after one union, the American Radio Association, put up pickets in Seattle, stopping the loading of the MV Maui, which was scheduled to arrive in Honolulu next Saturday.

“;The picketers in Seattle will be called away,”; and work will restart on loading the MV Maui and get back on schedule, said Matson spokesman Jeff Hull.

The agreement averts a potentially crippling shipping strike against Matson, which carries the majority of container goods to Hawaii.

Operations at other ports were not affected by the strike in Seattle, which began at 5 a.m. yesterday. Longshore workers honored the picket line, which stopped the loading of the vessel.

The three unions—Masters, Mates & Pilots, the American Radio Association and the Marine Engineers Beneficial Association—represent between 1,000 and 1,500 members eligible to work on Matson ships.

The unions were bargaining for a new contract to replace one that expired June 15.

Charles Khim, a labor attorney representing MM&P, said the unions wanted to preserve safety, maintain jobs and eliminate a two-tier wage system for better parity in pay.

Khim said the agreement “;dramatically”; reduces the 35 percent difference in the two-tier system that is supposed to help Matson pay for the cost of new ships.

Khim said he couldn't discuss details until after union members ratify the contract in about two weeks.

“;I think we've substantially met the goals of the membership”; and are “;cautiously optimistic”; that the membership will accept the agreement, he said.

The last shipping disruption was in 2002, when a dispute between the Pacific Maritime Association and the International Longshore and Warehouse Union led to a 10-day lockout and shutdown of West Coast ports.

That caused a shortage of toilet paper, rice and other goods in Hawaii.

The Waipio and Iwilei Costco stores sold out of one brand of toilet paper after news of the possible strike.

“;We had a run on toilet paper,”; said Tom Burba, general manager of the Waipio Costco, which sold out of the Kirkland brand toilet paper Friday.

The store still had other brands of toilet paper and ordered a larger shipment for Thursday.

Costco mostly uses Horizon Lines for shipping, which was not facing a strike, he said.