Negotiations between striking office workers and terminal operators at the Los Angeles-Long Beach ports deteriorated at the end of the first week of the walkout, with the union refusing to budge on its demand that it control the daily assigning of labor.
“It’s not a positive picture,” Stephen Berry, the attorney representing terminal operators and shipping lines, said Wednesday.
The Office Clerical Unit of International Longshore and Warehouse Union Local 63 and the employers’ negotiating team did not meet on Wednesday. Both parties were preparing for a formal hearing Thursday morning into last week’s ruling by an arbitrator that the OCU was not bargaining in good faith.
The ILWU international union, which represents dockworkers, hopes to convince the waterfront arbitrator the OCU branch of the union is negotiating in good faith so the dockworkers can honor the OCU picket lines and refuse to handle cargo.
Cargo operations at the ports have proceeded during the strike as management employees have taken over the clerical duties that go along with the dockside container handling.
By The Numbers: Containerized Ocean Trade - Southern California Ports.
Berry said negotiations this week actually moved backward as the OCU added to its demands by seeking to weaken technology language that was agreed to in the contract signed six years ago.
“Not a single grievance has been filed over the past six years” under that provision allowing greater use of technology, Berry said.
The union could not be reached Wednesday for comment.
Employers have sweetened the offer they submitted on the eve of the walkout June 30 with the promise of a guaranteed work week for every OCU member, Berry said. Employers are still guaranteeing there will be no lay-offs and no out-sourcing of jobs under a new contract.
But the union now is demanding that the OCU itself be able to assign temporary labor, when a member calls in sick, and that it replace any full-time worker who retires or quits, even if those workers are not needed, Berry said. Employers will not agree to these “featherbedding” practices, he said.
The hearing scheduled for Thursday before the waterfront arbitrator was requested by the ILWU dockworkers. Last week’s hearing before the arbitrator was called shortly after midnight when the OCU walked off their jobs after giving employers only three and one-half hours to analyze their contract proposal.
Thursday’s hearing will be more formal, with the ILWU and the Pacific Maritime Association, which represents the shipping lines and terminal operators that hire dockworkers, having more time to prepare their arguments.