Shippers are welcoming news that the West Coast longshoremen’s union members approved a new contract long before the old one could expire.
The current agreement was scheduled to expire on July 1, 2019, but now will be extended until July 1, 2022. Reports say that the new collective bargaining agreement will raise wages, maintain health benefits and increase pensions.
The West Coast longshoremen and their employers agreed last year to early talks to avoid the ruinous impact of labor actions taken after the previous contract expired in May 2014 (AA, 10-15-16, P. 3).
At that time, the longshoremen continued working without a contract, but union slowdowns resulted in cargo backups and other problems until an agreement was finally reached in February 2015.
Horrendous delays that saw ships parked miles out to sea meant Christmas shipments didn’t make it to their destinations in time and shippers began looking to Gulf and East Coast ports, resulting in the diversion of freight from the West Coast.
The International Longshore and Warehouse Union represents about 20,000 workers employed at 29 port facilities located on the West Coast in California, Oregon and Washington State.
The Washington Council on International Trade, representing manufacturers, farmers, retailers and others, said the 2014-15 contract dispute caused state businesses loses of nearly $770 million. It welcomed the extension “to prevent this kind of catastrophe from ever happening again.”
The National Retail Federation also was relieved by the contract approval. “We applaud ILWU members for taking the unprecedented step of approving a contract extension well in advance of the contract expiration,” observed Jonathan Gold, NRF Vice President for Supply Chain and Customs Policy.
“This agreement between the ILWU and PMA will provide the stability and predictability that NRF’s members and other supply chain stakeholders need to move their cargo efficiently through our ports.”