Port Operations Sees Further Disruption Amid Labor Negotiations

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LOS ANGELES (CNS) - The Pacific Maritime Association, the industry group representing shippers, issued a statement Thursday accusing the union that represents West Coast dockworkers of continued disruptive actions at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach amid protracted labor negotiations.

Both parties are negotiating new contracts with priorities in wages and the role of automation. The old contract with the association and the International Longshore and Warehouse Union expired July 1.

"Last week, ILWU Local 13 withheld labor that shut down terminals throughout the port of Los Angeles and Long Beach," said the Pacific Maritime Association in a statement. "This week, the union has unilaterally delayed the standard dispatch process, which is jointly administered by PMA and ILWU, and refused to allow PMA's participation in the labor dispatch process."

PMA said ILWU's actions slowed the start of operations throughout the Southern California port complex and forced crucial cargo handling equipment to be taken out of operation at several key terminals.

"This latest work action comes about a month after ILWU Local 13 in Southern California stopped complying with a contract provision providing employers the right to assign staggered shifts during meal periods so cargo can continue to be received and delivered without interruption," said the PMA in a statement.

The PMA further accused the union's actions of threatening to accelerate the diversion of discretionary cargo to ports on the East and Gulf coasts.

"Cargo diversion places quality jobs at risk far beyond the docks, including truck drivers, warehouse workers and thousands of others whose livelihoods depend on ongoing operations at the port," PMA said in a statement.

ILWU did not respond to immediate requests for comments.

Last week, the union said 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 during the two days that PMA accused them of withholding labor, which prompted closures of the twin ports.

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."

Port of Los Angeles officials issued a statement last week regarding the temporary San Pedro Bay Terminal closures, saying they are 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.

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