The International Longshore and Warehouse Union is urging the employers’ organization that represents six grain terminals in the Pacific Northwest to allow more time for contract negotiations and avoid a possible employer lockout or strike that could occur as soon as Thursday.
“The union is motivated to keep the grain flowing as we have done nonstop for the past 80 years,” ILWU spokeswoman Jennifer Sargent said. “We believe that additional negotiating would be fruitful, and have proposed additional dates to the multinational owners of the grain terminals,” she said.
ILWU workers that handle grain at six terminals in Oregon and Washington state have been working without a contract since the previous one expired on Sept. 30.
Negotiations have been tense because the six terminals are demanding that the new contract resemble an agreement signed earlier this year by the ILWU and the new EGT export grain terminal in Longview, Wash. The employers say that in order to compete, they need certain work-rule changes that would place them on par with EGT.
When it appeared that progress in the negotiations had ceased this fall, both sides agreed to call in a federal mediator. He was not able to help the union and employers to reach an agreement.
The Pacific Northwest Grain Handlers, the employers’ group that represents the six terminals, on Nov. 16 presented the ILWU with its final offer, stating that it would expire at midnight Wednesday. Neither side has explicitly called for a strike or an employer lockout, but some type of action is a possibility.
Sargent said the union’s bargaining committee has discussed the employers’ offer with the members, and the ILWU believes further progress is possible if the two sides would get back together in December. “The union does not believe that we are at impasse,” she said.