Negotiators for the International Longshore and Warehouse Union and grain terminal operators in the Pacific Northwest continue to meet each day in hopes of reaching a settlement before the current labor contract expires on Sunday.
It is difficult to judge if there has been any progress in the negotiations because neither the union nor the Pacific Northwest Grain Handlers Association is saying much. A spokesman for the employers’ association said the “strong preference” of employers is still to reach a contract settlement by Sunday.
Previous reports from the employers’ association and the ILWU indicated that negotiations would not be easy. The four terminals involved in the talks are seeking a contract that mirrors the agreement reached last year between the ILWU and the newly opened EGT grain-exporting terminal in Longview, Wash.
After bitter negotiations marked by ILWU demonstrations, the blocking of a train carrying grain to the terminal and numerous arrests, EGT and the ILWU agreed upon a deal that is reportedly more advantageous to the employer than the other grain-handling contracts in the Pacific Northwest.
At the start of the current round of negotiations in late August, the employers group issued a statement that said, “Leveling the playing field and avoiding extreme competitive disparities among Northwest grain shippers and ports is vital.”