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West Coast ports temporarily halt some operations Feb. 7-8


San Francisco – Port management temporarily halted vessel loading and unloading operations at West Coast ports the weekend of Feb. 7-8. In a statement, the Pacific Maritime Association (PMA), representing port management, said it did not want to offer port workers premium pay for diminished productivity in light of continued work slowdowns caused by disagreements with the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) over issues such as pay, pensions and contract arbitration.

Yard, rail and gate operations continued during the weekend at terminal operators’ discretion. Vessel operations were due to resume Monday, Feb. 9, while yard operations will continue at operators’ discretion.

“After three months of union slowdowns, it makes no sense to pay extra for less work, especially if there is no end in sight to the union’s actions which needlessly brought West Coast ports to the brink of gridlock.” said PMA spokesman Wade Gates.

In contrast, Dean McGrath, president of ILWU, said work slowdowns are actually the fault of port management.

"The PMA has reduced night shifts, which cut more than 50% of the available work hours in the port to load and unload ships,” said McGrath. “In order to scare or cause my membership harm or fear, they're willing to punish everyone that has any cargo on and off these ships."

The National Retail Federation issued a statement placing blame on both sides of the dispute.

“Temporarily suspending port operations is just another example of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union and Pacific Maritime Association shooting themselves in the collective bargaining foot,” said Jomathan Gold, VP for supply chain, NRF. “The continuing slowdowns and increasing congestion at West Coast ports are bringing the fears of a port shutdown closer to a reality. Our message to the ILWU and PMA: Stop holding the supply chain community hostage. Get back to the negotiating table, work with the federal mediator and agree on a new labor contract.”

The last prolonged port shutdown of the West Coast ports was the 10-day lockout in 2002 which was estimated to cost the U.S. economy close to $1 billion a day. The companies imposed a lockout that was lifted 10 days later under a court order sought by President George W. Bush.

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