The ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach were open for business Thursday as dock workers complied with an arbitrator's ruling that they must cross picket lines erected by striking office clerical workers.
Meanwhile, negotiators for the Office Clerical Unit of International Longshore and Warehouse Union Local 63 and their employer counterparts have yet to meet face-to-face since the two sides electronically exchanged contract proposals late Wednesday.
"I'm still optimistic we'll get together," said Stephen Berry, lead negotiator for employers at the 14 marine terminals and shipping lines that employ OCU labor.
The OCU e-mailed its contract proposal to Berry's office three and one-half hours before the midnight deadline on Wednesday. Employers e-mailed their proposal before midnight, and the OCU then placed picket lines at marine terminals.
Dock workers refused to cross the picket lines, and the Pacific Maritime Association, which manages the waterfront contract covering general longshoremen, marine clerks and foremen, immediately called the local arbitrator.
The arbitrator, who is chosen jointly by the PMA and ILWU, ruled that the OCU did not engage in good-faith negotiations by giving employers less than four hours to consider and respond to its contract proposal before calling a strike.
The arbitrator instructed the dock workers to return to their jobs throughout the harbor, which they did, and it was business as usual throughout the harbor on Thursday, said PMA President James McKenna. Although the OCU is affiliated with the ILWU, office workers and dock workers have different contracts.
OCU members likewise reported to work Thursday at all of the companies except four terminals operated by Yusen Terminals Inc. and Ports America, Berry said. Management took over the functions normally performed by OCU workers at those terminals.
Berry said the employers' negotiating strategy will not be affected by the strike. Employers offered the union a $1 per-hour wage increase over six years and a 10 percent increase in pensions.
OCU members, who process documentation and perform customer service work, earned on average $96,900 plus $66,000 in benefits in 2009, Berry said.
The union is calling for a package of wages and benefits that would increase employers' costs by 32 percent over three years, Berry said.
The OCU could not be reached for comment, but John Fageaux, president, said previously that the most important issue for the union is job security. He said employers intend to use technology to eliminate or outsource OCU work.
Berry responded that all current OCU members would be guaranteed jobs. Employers, however, want the flexibility to employ workers as needed. For example, under the previous contract, if a worker called in sick, the union would dispatch a replacement even if there was no work to do that day, Berry said.
-- Contact Bill Mongelluzzo at firstname.lastname@example.org.