Tuesday, July 6, 1999

West Coast
dockworkers picket
as talks continue

The ILWU contract expired
last Thursday

Hawaii dockworkers are also
working without a contract.

By Russ Lynch


Although neither of the big shipping lines serving Hawaii has been affected, sporadic picketing on the West Coast has begun to threaten shipping schedules as the International Longshore & Warehouse Union continues to work without a contract.

"There were some picket lines going up at some terminals" at Oakland, said Steve Stallone, an ILWU spokesman in San Francisco. Late this morning, he said it apparently was a local dispute relating to staffing crane operations and that attempts were being made to resolve it.

Apparently only Oakland has been affected so far and Matson Navigation Co. and Sea-Land Service Inc., which both have Oakland-Honolulu containership departures scheduled tomorrow, said there were no pickets at any of their terminals.

The Pacific Maritime Association, which is negotiating on behalf of shipping and stevedoring management for a new contract covering 14,500 ILWU workers all along the West Coast, said there have been some "minor incidents" that have affected some shipping.

"Oakland is experiencing some shutdowns," said Phil Resch, senior vice president of operations at the PMA, which represents about 90 companies in bargaining with the waterfront union.

Los Angeles and Long Beach, other ports important to Hawaii's ocean supply line, "are up and running with some minor incidents," he said.

Resch said he heard of one ship, not in the Hawaii trade, that left the West Coast a few containers short of its planned load to avoid a disruption.

The PMA-ILWU contract covering the entire West Coast expired Thursday. Late that day talks in San Francisco wrapped up for a July 4th weekend break, with the next meeting to be held at the ILWU's call.

The PMA gave the union a summary of its positions, including what Resch said was some movement on management's part in response to union demands. The union agreed to study it and call back for another meeting, Resch said.

"It was all very calm and very measured," he said.

The ILWU's spokesman agreed with that assessment.

Both sides have agreed to work as usual until the terms of a new contract are thrashed out, extending the last three-year contract beyond its expiration.

They also agreed not to make public statements about the issues or the progress of talks.

Unofficially, word has leaked out that the issues include demands by the union for broader jurisdiction -- having ILWU members handle all movement of cargo around the outside of the ports, not just on the docks themselves.

The reports, supported by some of the early PMA comments, say that management wants to limit disruptions. For example, it wants to limit the conditions under which the union can shut down a whole loading job because of a safety question.

And the PMA reportedly wants to introduce new cost-saving technology without union protests.

The union is also seeking pay raises but jurisdiction and working conditions appear to be more important issues, West Coast observers say.

A separate Hawaii waterfront contract -- between the Hawaii Employers Council for management and the ILWU -- also expired Thursday but work continues. Talks have been going on and more meetings are scheduled, officials said.

Traditionally, although the issues are different, the Hawaii waterfront contract does not get wrapped up until there is agreement on a West Coast contract and its terms are known.

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