Clerical worker contract talks continue

Clerical worker contract talks continue

LOS ANGELES -- The union representing 750 office clerical workers in Southern California is scheduled to resume contract talks Wednesday with representatives of 16 shipping lines.

John Fageaux, president of International Longshore and Warehouse Union Local 63 Office Clerical Unit, said wages, while still not resolved, are not the major issue.

The union is concerned about attempts by waterfront employers to allow customers to directly access the marine terminal computer systems, and in the process, bypass union workers who have traditionally processed certain information and documentation.

Union members are not immediately in jeopardy of losing their jobs because the office clerical contract has a "no layoff" clause. However, the future growth of the union would be threatened if customers are allowed to access terminal systems directly. "Our concern is what happens in the next five to 10 years," Fageaux said.

Employers could not be reached for comment as the 16 terminals and shipping lines have individual contracts with the ILWU office clerical division. Attorneys are representing the employers on shared contract issues, such as technology.

The clerical unit also hopes to establish a grievance process in which employers must consult with the union before introducing new technology. The ILWU contract for general longshoremen that was negotiated in 2002 outlines a step-by-step process that allows the union to challenge new technology and seek binding rulings by a coast arbitrator.

The clerical workers' contract expired on July 1. While neither side has threatened a strike or lockout, ILWU dockworkers could be expected to honor picket lines if the office clerical talks reach an impasse.