Grain terminal operators in the Pacific Northwest notified the International Longshore and Warehouse Union that they will implement at 6 a.m. Thursday the employers’ final offer that was rejected by the union over the weekend.
Even though ILWU locals in Oregon and Washington rejected the employers’ final offer by a margin of almost 94 percent, the union members will nevertheless report to their jobs on Thursday.
ILWU spokeswoman Jennifer Sargent said the union members will continue working “despite the substandard provisions of the employers’ last offer.” Sargent said the agreement was “an imposed contract, not a lockout.”
The three employers — United Grain, Columbia Grain and Louis Dreyfus — are members of the Northwest Grain Handlers Association that represents six grain export terminals in the region. In a statement Wednesday, the employers said the impasse that occurred when the previous contract expired on Sept. 30 was never about money.
Wages for ILWU members will increase to a range of $34 to $36 an hour. With an additional $30 an hour in benefits, the combined wages and benefits of the union members will be $64 to $66 an hour, the employers said.
The employers from the beginning of negotiations said their goal was to level the playing field with two other terminals in the region that had previously signed contracts with the ILWU. Those terminals are EGT and Kalama Export in Washington.
The new contract gives the employers greater flexibility in hiring, staffing and assigning labor, the ability to have non-bargaining unit personnel perform certain work when ILWU members are unavailable or refuse to work, greater flexibility to work up to 12 hours in a shift if needed and a prohibition against work stoppages during the life of the contract.
All of these measures will allow the six terminals to compete on a level playing field with EGT and Kalama Export, the employers said. “The issue has been workplace rules,” they said.
Sargent said the union is disappointed that the employers association declined to negotiate further on the ILWU’s recent contract proposal. That proposed contract was based on an agreement under which the grain terminals have operated profitably with ILWU labor since 1934, she said.