SAN PEDRO (CNS) - The ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach were back in operation today after a worker shortage shut down the country's largest port complex for parts of two days.
The shortage came amid protracted labor negotiations between the union that represents West Coast dockworkers and the industry group representing shippers. Both parties are negotiating a new contracts with priorities in wages and the role of automation.
The old contract with the International Longshore and Warehouse Union expired July 1. The ports experienced shortage Thursday night and part of Friday, but workers began returning to the docks Friday afternoon. A spokesperson for the Pacific Maritime Association, the industry group that represents shippers at the negotiating table, told City News Service on Saturday that ``labor has been dispatched to the Ports of LA and Long Beach since second shift yesterday.''
Sgt. Huang with Los Angeles Port Police told CNS that the Los Angeles port appeared to be operating at full capacity Saturday, and dispatcher at the Port of Long Beach said that facility was also operating normally Saturday. The PMA said Friday that ``the largest ILWU local on the West Coast has taken a concerted action to withhold labor at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, resulting in widespread workers shortages.
``A majority of the jobs for last night's shift went unfilled, including all jobs for cargo-handling equipment operators needed to load and unload cargo. The workers who did show up were released because there was not a full complement of ILWU members to operate the terminals,'' the PMA continued. International Longshore Warehouse Union Local 13 also withheld labor Friday morning, effectively shutting down the twin ports, officials said.
But according to statement from the ILWU, longshore workers at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach were still hard at work and remain committed to moving the nation's cargo. The union attributed the dockworker shortage to union members attending its monthly meeting and observing religious holidays.
``On the evening of Thursday, April 6, International Longshore and Warehouse Union Local 13 held its monthly membership meeting as it its contractual right,'' the statement read. At the meeting, outgoing President Ramon Ponce de Leon swore in incoming President Gary Herrera, with several thousand union members in attendance.
``On Friday, union members who observe religious holidays took the opportunity to celebrate with their families,'' the ILWU statement read.
``Cargo operations are ongoing as longshore workers at the ports remain on the job.'' However, the PMA accused the union's actions of threatening to further accelerate the diversion of discretionary cargo to ports on the East and Gulf coasts.
Port of Los Angeles officials issued a statement Friday regarding the temporary San Pedro Bay Terminal closures, saying they were in communication with the ILWU and PMA, along with federal, state, and local officials, to support a return to normal operations in the ports.
``Resuming cargo operations at America's busiest port complex is critical to maintain the confidence of our customers and supply chain stakeholders,'' Port of L.A. officials said in a statement.