Contract negotiations between the International Longshore and Warehouse Union and three grain terminal operators in the Pacific Northwest broke down at the weekend with each side refusing to consider the other’s proposal.
It was the first face-to-face meeting between the ILWU and the Pacific Northwest Grain Handlers Association in three months.
The ILWU wanted the employers group to use as a template in the negotiations an interim five-year contract it had reached on March 9 with TEMCO, which operates grain terminals in Tacoma, Kalama and Portland.
The employers group, negotiating on behalf of three other grain terminals in the Pacific Northwest, wanted to base Friday’s negotiations on a contract offer it made to the ILWU last Nov. 16.
The association in December imposed that “last, best and final offer,” even though the ILWU membership voted it down by a margin of 94 percent. Nevertheless, the ILWU has been working under the terms of the offer for the past three months.
Because neither side would even consider the proposal of the other as a basis for negotiations, the talks began and ended on Friday.
“We are disappointed that the union presented us with a proposal less favorable than their last proposal of Dec. 12, 2012 — one which we previously advised was unacceptable,” the grain handlers association stated.
“It’s pure greed that’s stopping these profitable foreign grain merchants from reaching a win-win agreement with workers as their American counterpart TEMCO has done,” ILWU International President Brian McEllrath said.
The three member companies of the Pacific Northwest Grain Handlers Association all have ties with foreign-based corporations. TEMCO is a joint venture company that includes U.S.-based Cargill.
The employers say the contract they proposed is similar to one that was signed in February 2012 between the ILWU and EGT, a newly opened grain terminal in Longview, Wash., and another terminal operator in Kalama, Wash. Unless the three terminals in the grain handlers association get a similar contract, they will not be able to compete on a level playing field with the EGT and Kalama terminals, the employers group stated.
The ILWU said its agreement with TEMCO is based on a contractual framework the union and Pacific Northwest grain terminal operators have worked under since the 1930s.