LA-Long Beach Employers Put Ball in Union’s Court

LA-Long Beach Employers Put Ball in Union’s Court

The lead negotiator for employers in the ports of Los Angeles-Long Beach said shipping and terminal executives are prepared to resume contract negotiations immediately with striking office clerical workers.

In a letter Thursday afternoon to John Fageaux, president of International Longshore and Warehouse Union Local 63, attorney Stephen Berry said employers were prepared to meet with the union Thursday evening or Friday.

“The employers remain willing to do so without any preconditions. But the ball is in the union’s court,” Berry said.

Fageaux was in a meeting and was not immediately available for comment.

About two-thirds of the container terminal capacity in Los Angeles-Long Beach remained shut down Thursday. The OCU workers first picketed the APM Terminal in Los Angeles on Tuesday, and followed on Wednesday by picketing the other terminals where they work. Four terminals remain open for business as they do not have OCU workers.

The office clerical workers process shipping documentation. While the OCU itself cannot stop cargo-handling operations, they have the support of ILWU dockworkers who have refused to cross the picket lines.

In a statement Thursday, the ILWU dockworkers emphasized their determination to stand by the office workers.

“We support our sister local as its members work to reach a good contract that maintains local jobs with good working conditions, and family wages and benefits. We urge the employers to get back to the negotiating table and reach a good contract with the OCU,” said Joe Cortez, president of ILWU Local 13, the largest ILWU local on the West Coast.

In a release issued Thursday afternoon, Berry said employers are prepared to resume negotiations with the assistance of federal mediators if necessary. “The harbor employers have offered to enter into mediation on numerous occasions throughout the last 2 ½ years, as recently as this week,” Berry stated.

The OCU has been working without a contract since June 2010. Major issues involve the alleged outsourcing of work and resistance to ending work practices that employers charge amount to “classic featherbedding.”

Vessel arrivals will increase at the Southern California ports during the next few days as port terminals are busiest on weekends. Although four terminals are still open, the backlog of vessels at the other facilities will eventually reach a point where gridlock is likely.

Cargo interests remember the crippling 2002 employer lockout on the West Coast when ports were shut down for 10 days, and it took weeks to return to normal.

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It took months to clear the back - log in 2002.