After a long holiday break in negotiations, the International Longshore & Warehouse Union (ILWU) and the Pacific Maritime Association (PMA) returned to the bargaining table yesterday afternoon. The two sides were reportedly far from an agreement, and the ILWU finally agreed with the PMA to bring in a federal mediator. An official request was sent to the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service (FMCS) who responded they would be sending “Deputy Director Scot Beckenbaugh, a senior FMCS mediator with extensive collective bargaining experience in this industry.” Click here to read the FMCS press release on the subject.
As is customary, the FMCS will continue the “gag order” already in place.
The request to bring in a federal mediator is a welcomed, yet long overdue, turn of events. The recent exchange of press releases tells us negotiations were not going well and something had to be done.
The ILWU called for PMA member companies to sit at the negotiating table (press release here) as well as invited US Congresswoman (D) Janice Hahn to speak to members at their hiring hall (CLICK HERE FOR VIDEO).
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The PMA, on the other hand, called on ILWU leadership to stop withholding skilled workers (press release here) and posted a fact sheet outlining the labor shortage in place by the ILWU since early November (fact sheet here).
The situation was taking a turn for the ugly. The BNSF began holding westbound trains headed for marine facilities on the West Coast, and in response to the labor shortages and work slowdowns, the PMA announced terminals in Oakland and LA/LB would not be ordering labor for nighttime vessel operations. Since the land side of marine terminals are severely congested, they will meter vessel operations in order to attempt to get the current bottleneck of cargo under control.
We are hopeful the use of a federal mediator will bring calm to the volatile theater. We are also hopeful Mr. Beckenbaugh will insist both side return to normal operations while contract terms are negotiated.