Contract negotiations between the Office Clerical Unit of International Longshore and Warehouse Union Local 63 and waterfront employers have entered their second week, which is a record of sorts in the 2-year-old saga.
Although no agreement is in sight at this time, the fact that negotiations have been held each day for one straight week is considered a positive sign. The negotiators, attorney Stephen Berry, who represents the Los Angeles/Long Beach Harbor Employers Association, and OCU President John Fageaux, have agreed not to comment publicly at this point.
The negotiations involving some 600 office clerical workers, who process shipping documents, and 14 individual shipping lines and terminal operators, began in April 2010 and have been held sporadically since then. Weeks, sometime months, have elapsed between negotiating sessions.
The OCU said its main goal is job preservation. The union charges that employers intend to use technology to outsource office clerical jobs overseas. Employers say the OCU proposals, as they stand now, would increase costs 49 percent over the life of the contract.
Although cargo handling at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach has continued while the negotiations have dragged on, there is always the possibility that the OCU could cut off the talks and post pickets at marine terminals. The coast arbitrator who handles ILWU dockworker issues said the ILWU would not violate its contract if dockworkers were to choose to honor the pickets.