PMA Counters ILWU Statements on Contract Talks


Statement by Tom Edwards, Pacific Maritime Association
September 30, 2002

The ILWU said today, in effect, that it will not be bullied into signing a contract extension.  That statement is outrageous.  The ILWU refused to sign contract extensions beginning on September 2 despite appeals by PMA to keep peace on the docks by doing so.

The existing contract they are refusing to extend has been in place since 1999.  The Union’s work slowdowns are a violation of the contract.  That’s why they are refusing to sign it.  They have had every opportunity to agree to this extension for the past 28 days, yet they have continually refused.

Don’t let the Union mislead you.  The Union leaders ordered coordinated work actions up and down the coast yesterday.  The result was a slowdown that reduced productivity by 54%.  The Union can only stage these work actions legally if there is no contract in place.     The Union’s slowdown tactics are illegal under the contract.  Again, that’s why they won’t sign it.  What other reason could there be?

Secondly, the ILWU said today that the employers need to move away from technology.  That’s like asking us to throw away our computer and go back to the electric typewriter.  It’s not going to happen.

International trade is serious business.  Our ports today, though among the largest in the world, are far behind when it comes to the use of modern technology. 

In some cases, longshore workers still use chalk to identify and track cargo at a time in this Age of Technology when the local grocery stores and video rental outlets use barcodes and scanners.  We have ILWU clerks re-typing information when that information can be processed with the press of a button.

We’re not talking hi-tech here.  We’re talking about off-the-shelf technology that our friends in Silicon Valley developed a decade ago. 

On the issue of technology, the Union cannot put its head in the sand.  This technology has enabled companies like FedEx and UPS grow and prosper.  Ports around the world are already using it.  The ILWU cannot turn back the clock. 

The lack of technology is already creating severe bottlenecks at the ports, and there’s no chance that we will be able to accommodate the expected trade growth from Asia without it.  The top ports in Asia, and in Europe, are at least a decade ahead of us.  Our ports literally cannot keep up. 

The ILWU fears that technology will eliminate jobs.  PMA has guaranteed job protection for every registered worker who may be impacted by technology.  Not one member of the ILWU will lose his or her job because of technology.

Third, the Union said it is not sure it will support mediation.  These talks have dragged on since May 13.  Last week, minutes after we thought we had reached an agreement in principle with the Union on technology, we learned that they rejected the proposal.  They then issued a resolution coastwide to stage work slowdowns that crippled the terminals. 

If there was ever any doubt that mediation was necessary, that question has now been answered with the events of the past week.

The PMA has accepted the invitation of the federal mediator to attend a meeting with the Union on Thursday in Washington, D.C.  We also embrace efforts by Governor Davis and Los Angeles Mayor Hahn to help facilitate negotiations that will result in a new agreement.

Let me make a final comment about the offer PMA has placed on the table.  This offer would make the members of the ILWU among the highest paid workers in America. 

Under the PMA proposal, average salaries for full-time longshoremen and marine clerks will grow to $114,500 and $137,500, respectively.  We are providing fully employer-paid health care – not a dime in monthly premiums for individual or family coverage.  We are also increasing an already healthy pension, and providing job guarantees.

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Following is the Press Release issued on September 1, 2002 relating to the above topic.



San Francisco, Calif. (September 1, 2002) – The International Longshore and Warehouse Union, unwilling to budge on critical issues of port modernization and technology, walked out of contract talks today even though the Pacific Maritime Association reached an agreement in principle on the health benefits package.

“We reached an agreement in principle on health benefits, but the Union continues to refuse to accept critically needed technology to modernize the ports.  The Union claims to support technology, but in fact, is hostile to the very concept of bringing our ports into the 21st century,” said PMA President and CEO Joe Miniace.

The ILWU declared that it would also refuse to agree to daily extensions of the current contract, thereby creating the opportunity to stage work slowdowns that could cripple the U.S. economy.  The two sides had agreed to daily contract extensions since the current contract expired on July 1, 2002.  Work slowdowns are a violation of the contract, but with no extension in place, the Union now has license to conduct these strike-related work actions.

“By walking away from the talks and refusing to agree to a contract extension, the Union just fired the first shot,” Miniace said.  “They opened the door to work slowdowns, which we have said time and again will not be tolerated.”  In walking out, ILWU President Jim Spinosa declared that the Union would not extend the contract past 5 p.m. today, and threatened that the union “is going to do what it has to do.”

During previous negotiations, the Union has slowed down its productivity to levels that are the equivalent to a strike.  “Work slowdowns are how his Union stages strikes,” Miniace said.  “I have said before that I will not tolerate a slowdown-strike, and that still stands.  If the Union wants to play games with the U.S. economy, they will have to do it from outside the terminal gates.”

For three years, Miniace has indicated that this current round of contract talks needed to include a pact on port modernization and technology, which is why the PMA called for an early start to negotiations nearly two years ago to work through the difficult issues of technology implementation.

Modernization is critical to relieving mounting congestion problems that threaten to thwart the movement of cargo.  “These congestion problems are acute, and pose a real threat to an already shaky economy.  Technology implementation is also a cornerstone of the federal government’s plans to enhance security at our nation’s ports.”  

The PMA’s offer would make the members of the ILWU among the highest paid union workers in America.  Under that proposal, average salaries for full-time longshoremen and marine clerks would grow to $114,500 and $137,500, respectively.  On top of wage increases, the benefits package alone would increase from $42,000 per employee to more than $59,000 in the fifth year of the contract.

The PMA package represents a 17 percent increase over five years.  At one point in the negotiations last month, the ILWU came in with a 57 percent package over three years.  After a five-week, ILWU-imposed hiatus in the talks, the Union returned last week with a regressive package that would have increased the costs by 110 percent over three years.  “By anyone’s standards, that’s not negotiating,” Miniace said. 

“The PMA proposal provides job guarantees to any registered member of the ILWU who will be impacted by technology.  The PMA is paying a high price for technology, but the Union has indicated no interest or willingness to engage in a serious discussion on how to modernize the ports,” he said.

The ILWU refused to set a new meeting date for the talks.  There are two shifts tonight after the contract expires.  Following the observance of the Labor Day holiday, the next work shift is set to begin on Tuesday morning at 7 a.m.

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