Contract negotiations between office clerical workers and the attorney representing waterfront employers in Los Angeles-Long Beach resumed Monday morning after a two-week hiatus, but ended on a sour note two hours later, with no new talks planned.
Stephen Berry, the attorney representing 14 shipping lines and terminal operators, said the latest proposal from the Office Clerical Unit of International Longshore and Warehouse Union Local 63 offered nothing new.
The 600 office workers in Southern California have been working without a contract since June 2010, and negotiations have been held only sporadically and for short durations since then.
The OCU said its main concern is that employers will use technology to outsource jobs to other states or even overseas. Berry said the OCU’s proposal would increase employers’ costs 49 percent over the term of the contract and would negate the efficiencies from technology that employers bought and paid for in previous contracts through wage and benefits provisions.
Berry said OCU President John Fageaux ended the talks Monday by saying, “I guess we’re done,” and Berry agreed. Fageaux could not be reached for comment.
Fageaux indicated he wanted to make his latest contract offer before taking the next step, Berry said. Employers are concerned the OCU will erect picket lines. Their concern results from a ruling in April that ILWU dockworkers will not violate their contract if they refuse to cross picket lines posted by the OCU.
Although the OCU is affiliated with the larger ILWU union representing dockworkers at all West Coast ports, the OCU has a separate contract for its office workers, most of whom are in Southern California. The dockworkers negotiate their coastwide contract with the Pacific Maritime Association. The OCU’s main leverage is to shut down a terminal by posting pickets, with the ILWU dockworkers then walking off their jobs.
The OCU posted pickets twice over the past two years, and on each occasion the dockworkers walked off their jobs. The Southern California area arbitrator ordered the dockworkers back to work immediately, ruling in each instance that the dockworkers were violating their contract with the PMA.
The matter was then appealed to the coast arbitrator in San Francisco. The coast arbitrator overruled the area arbitrator, and his decision is considered final under the joint ILWU-PMA grievance procedure in the waterfront contract.
Monday’s negotiations involved just one of the 14 OCU bargaining units, which works at APM Terminals in Los Angeles. If pickets are established over the next day or two, they would likely be posted only at the APM facility.
However, if that happens, and if the ILWU dockworkers honor the pickets at APM, the other 13 employers would likely lock out the OCU, Berry said. Employers are concerned an OCU divide-and-conquer strategy that attempts to break one employer would be detrimental for the entire port complex.
The ILWU headquarters in San Francisco has had no comment recently on the OCU negotiations and any actions the ILWU would take if the OCU posted pickets.
Jim McKenna, president of the PMA, said that although dockworkers may choose to honor an OCU picket in light of the coast arbitrator’s ruling, employers have various options for responding to actions that threaten cargo-handling at the nation’s largest port complex.
Contact Bill Mongelluzzo at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @billmongelluzzo.
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