The International Longshore and Warehouse Union and grain terminal operators in the Pacific Northwest have called upon the services of a federal mediator as contract talks approach another deadline next week.
The contract between the ILWU and the Pacific Northwest Grain Handlers Association in Oregon and Washington was set to expire on Sept. 30, but the union and the four terminals involved in the negotiations agreed to extend the contract until Oct. 24.
With no agreement in sight, and a second deadline approaching, both parties agreed that federal mediation was needed to prevent a strike or lockout.
Negotiations are especially difficult this year because the EGT grain export terminal that opened earlier this year in Longview, Wash., had already reached agreement with the ILWU on a contract the union said it does not want to repeat with other grain handlers in the region.
The ILWU reportedly made concessions in the EGT contract that favor the employer, and the other terminals in the region said they cannot remain competitive unless their contract includes the same concessions.
EGT last year attempted to open the terminal by using labor from another union. The ILWU held a number of demonstrations, with dozens of arrests, before EGT agreed to hire ILWU workers and the union agreed to concessions.