West Coast dock work talks tense over lunch breaks Ship’s crew

By Laura Curtis (Bloomberg) —

Negotiations for a new job contract for West Coast longshoremen are under increasing pressure as their employers say a failure to space out lunch breaks has disrupted operations at the twin ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach since Wednesday.

Employers are allowed to shift shifts around lunchtime so there are enough dockers available to deliver and receive containers, the Pacific Maritime Association, which speaks for terminal operators and shipping companies, said in a statement emailed to Bloomberg on Monday. But “as of last week, ILWU Local 13 stopped complying with that contract provision,” the PMA said, referring to the local chapter of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union.

The statement is the most visible acknowledgment of a work stoppage since talks began last May, and it comes as cargo volumes in Southern California’s ports have fallen sharply from a peak a year ago. The threat of union unrest has prompted retailers, manufacturers and other importers to avoid potential supply difficulties by diverting goods to the East and Gulf Coasts.

Read more: Port of Los Angeles cargo falls 43% from last year’s record high

The PMA and the ILWU, which represents some 22,000 West Coast dockers, had pledged not to speak to the media and to continue working without problems such as slowdowns or lockouts. As late as February 23, they issued a joint statement saying they were confident they would reach an agreement soon.

The PMA said the measures caused “significant delays”. And since both sides have been working without a contract since July 1, “there is no way for the PMA to settle the matter and require the union to staff the terminals continuously and without interruption.”

Alan McCorkle, CEO of Yusen Terminals LLC, said the actions didn’t have a major impact on its Port of Los Angeles terminal, but the trucking community was being impacted by long queues and delays.

Cargo truck traffic in the twin ports will now be “completely halted” from 12pm to 1pm daily, instead of normally running at about half capacity during mealtime, “resulting in a longer truck queue and delays for the trucking community” . McCorkle said.

ILWU President Willie Adams said in a statement its members are “allowed to take lunch breaks just like everyone else.” The union said dockers work every day under their agreements with the PMA and that trucks can queue for many reasons. The union said the PMA was using the lines to try to sway public opinion.

© 2023 Bloomberg LP

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