United Grain Corp. on Wednesday locked out the International Longshore and Warehouse Union from its export terminal in Vancouver, Wash., charging that a member of the Labor Relations Committee at ILWU Local 4 attempted to sabotage equipment at the facility.
The incident comes at the same time that another terminal operator, TEMCO, and the ILWU ratified a five-year interim collective bargaining agreement covering three TEMCO grain terminals in Portland, Ore., Tacoma and Kalama, Wash.
United Grain said its decision to lock out the ILWU in Vancouver came after the company on Monday received an official report from an investigating firm. The report charges that a worker on Dec. 22, 2012, placed a metal pipe approximately two feet long into the conveyor system at the facility.
Also, a surveillance tape shows the same worker, who was wearing “distinctive clothing,” intentionally introduced a sand and water mixture into the railcar processor on the same day. The report said the property damage totaled about $105,000.
Furthermore, Bullard law firm, which represents United Grain, said that over the past several months the terminal has experienced “an unusually large number of unexplained and suspicious incidents of equipment failure and/or damage.”
The ILWU called United Grain’s charges “unfounded,” and charged that the company used the investigator’s report to accomplish its goal of locking out the union. United Grain and the ILWU had negotiated for months on a new contract and failed to reach agreement.
United Grain “has fabricated a story as an excuse to do what they’ve wanted to do all along, which is to lock workers out instead of reaching a fair agreement with them,” said Jennifer Sargent, ILWU Coast Longshore Division communications director.
The ILWU actually has contracts with six grain terminals in Oregon and Washington. Those contracts expired on Sept. 30, 2012, but the union continued to work without a contract while negotiations continued into late December.
Federal mediation failed to bring the parties to a resolution, and the companies gave the ILWU their final offer, which the union rejected. The companies then “imposed” a contract on the union, according to the ILWU.
However, the ILWU and TEMCO announced Wednesday that they reached agreement on a contract covering three terminals in the Pacific Northwest. Paul Butters, general manager, said the ability of both parties to reach agreement “is good for U.S. farmers and global customers who seek U.S. products.” TEMCO is a joint venture between Cargill and CHS.
ILWU President Robert McEllrath said the agreement was reached “because American companies, farmers and workers recognize a common interest in our country’s resources and economic well-being.”
Although they did not release details of the contract, the company and the ILWU said the agreement was “workable” for both parties.