As you probably know if you’re involved in the goods movement industry, the labor contract between the Pacific Maritime Association and the International Longshore and Warehouse Union expires on July 1.
The good news is that ILWU, which represents 22,000 dockworkers along the West Coast, and the PMA, which represents about 70 companies that the laborers work for, began contract negotiations on May 10.
The bad news however, is that if past negotiation cycles can be used to indicate how long it might take to hammer out a contract, it might be several weeks, or even months, past the current agreement’s expiration before the parameters of a new pact are agreed upon.
According to various media reports, among the potential sticking points during talks are wages and benefits, as well as the introduction of more automation to marine terminals.
The union has stated its intent to seek an increase in compensation for its members, many of whom have labored under hazardous conditions throughout the pandemic and have dealt with ever-increasing container throughput.
And the PMA is looking to increase the usage of machines that its members believe can speed up cargo processing and help cut down on the cargo backlog that has developed at some ports, particularly those in Los Angeles and Long Beach, which were recently labeled the two least efficient ports in the world in the global Container Port Performance Index (CPPI), developed by the World Bank and S&P Global Market Intelligence.
Fortunately, there has been very little chatter from either side about a potential strike, work slowdown or lockout, something that would be disastrous for America’s maritime supply chain if any occurred if the two sides reached an impasse after the contract’s expiration.
Here at Pacific Maritime, we take no side in the negotiations between the two sides. But as the magazine’s managing editor, I just want to say that I hope that there are no supply chain disruptions during the ongoing process, that hopefully the union and owners can come together to hammer out their differences in a timely manner, that everyone is satisfied with the result, and that each side manages to achieve its main goals.
We’ll be watching.
Managing Editor Mark Nero can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.