Thursday, December 6, 2012

Freight Moves Again as Port Strike Ends to Relieve Container Shipping Woes

Now the East Coast Must Resolve Difficulties
Shipping News Feature

US – It seems the addition of federal mediators to the mix was a key component in settling the dock workers strike which has kept container shipping operations in suspense for eight days after clerical workers walked out at the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach leaving over a dozen box vessels loaded with freight marooned outside awaiting unloading.

The settlement, which saw thousands of dockworkers refusing to cross picket lines, came before there was a need to invoke legislation to enforce a mandatory 80 day cooling off period which would have forced a return to work. Representatives from management and the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) agreed the deal but seemed reluctant to reveal full details of the new contract as staff flooded into work for the first shift on Wednesday morning.

In many ways the strike can be said to be testing the waters for the main dockworkers contract which is due for renewal in 2014 and it seems that the unions concerns over the outsourcing of jobs, mainly those which can be done at a lower rate overseas, have been allayed. More than 40% of the country's ocean borne traffic moves through the West Coast ports and the recent strike was the biggest disruption to services in a decade with ten of the fourteen local terminals at a standstill.

All eyes will now swivel East as industrial action may recommence there if negotiations at the major ports, including New York and New Jersey, do not produce a positive result by the time the period of grace ends on the last day of the year. Some within the union community have intimated that this latest strike, as with another recent unconnected dispute in the Port of Oakland, are in part designed to refurbish the unions’ national image by not allowing comparatively minor disputes to get out of hand yet carrying the threat of the possibility of serious consequences if left unresolved.

Photo: Protestors in action during the dispute courtesy of the ILWU.