PMA accuses ILWU of “new tactics” to disrupt operations in the Port of Los Angeles and Long Beach Ship’s crew

The Pacific Maritime Association (PMA) has accused the local ILWU union of conducting “illegal labor actions” that have disrupted operations at the country’s busiest port complex, in the latest sign that West Coast labor talks have gone awry .

PMA represents 70 shipping companies and terminal operators in the 29 west coast ports. In its most recent statement, the PMA accused the ILWU Local 13 union of using “new tactics” to slow the start of operations at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach and forcing the shutdown of key cargo handling equipment at several key terminals. PMA has not clarified the magnitude of the disruption or which terminals were affected.

Last Thursday night and Friday, most cargo operations at the Port of Los Angeles and Long Beach terminals were suspended due to a labor shortage PMA accuses the union of deliberately holding back workers. Now the PMA accuses the union of refusing to cooperate on the posting of workers and unilaterally delaying the standard posting process managed jointly by the PMA and ILWU.

“Collectively, these illegal labor actions have disrupted activities at some of the largest and busiest terminals in the United States, which play critical roles in moving cargo to and from markets across the country,” PMA said.

The PMA’s statement is the latest sign of growing tension in private negotiations between the PMA and ILWU over a new collective agreement for more than 22,000 West Coast dockers.

Negotiations have been ongoing since May 2022, two months before the previous contract expires. Meanwhile, US ports have seen a significant drop in the volume of inbound cargo and the number of empty containers shipped back to Asia, resulting in dramatically lower volumes compared to the first half of last year when negotiations began.

The uncertainty surrounding the negotiations has caused cargo to be diverted to ports on the US East and Gulf Coasts, which have been able to hold more of their profits from the pandemic surge in imports.

Port of Los Angeles Executive Director Gene Seroka said Wednesday he believes a negotiated employment contract is “critical” to regain shippers’ confidence and bring cargo back to the West Coast.

PMA’s latest statement says the latest work actions also come about a month after the ILWU union in Southern California stopped complying with a contract provision requiring staggered food shifts to allow cargo operations to continue uninterrupted.

PMA warns that any measures that undermine confidence in West Coast ports threaten to further accelerate the diversion of cargo to East and Gulf Coast ports.

“The locus of cargo diversion is at-risk quality jobs well beyond the docks, including truck drivers, warehouse workers and thousands of others whose livelihoods depend on ongoing operations at the port,” it said.

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