SoCal ILWU office worker contract talks resume
Contract negotiations between the union representing marine office clerks in Southern California and ocean carrier representatives resumed Wednesday with both sides reporting forward movement on the several sticking points remaining, including wages.
“Just a handful of issues are still left on the table,” John Fageaux Jr., head of Local 63 of the Office Clerical Unit of the International Longshore Warehouse Union told the Associated Press.
Officials representing 14 marine terminals in the talks also reported progress and expressed hope that the current round of negotiations would be productive.
“We’re making progress,” Steve Berry, the firms' lead negotiator told the AP. “We’re not there yet. We’re moving forward, not backward.”
Talks are set to resume gain Thursday.
The latest round of talks in the three-week old contract dispute began Sunday, with employer negotiators hoping to avoid a walkout of the office workers that could lead to a shutdown of the ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles. The 930 members of the Office Clerical Unit has been without a contract since June 30 and submitted its latest proposal to employer negotiators Monday evening shortly before the break. A family medical emergency for Berry led to a one-day postponement of talks on Tuesday.
While reports have indicated for several weeks that the two sides remain far apart on compensation, both sides have announced positive movement in the past several days.
The union said last week that if the talks stall, picket lines would go up.
The OCU union local, an entity unique to Southern California, is part of the area's larger 15,000-strong ILWU dockworker union. However, the union negotiates their contract with 14 Los Angeles-Long Beach-area maritime firms directly and not with the Pacific Maritime Association, which represents the interest of West Coast maritime firms in negotiations with the parent ILWU union. The OCU represents mainly 'white collar' office and clerical workers in the 'off-port' offices of maritime firms.
While the parent ILWU dockworker's union has agreed to honor any OCU picket lines — effectively shutting down the nation's two busiest container ports on the eve of the peak shipping season — there is some contention whether the OCU members' positions outside the ports would lead to restraining orders being filed in the case of a walkout and subsequent supportive walkout at the docks.
Berry previously said the employers’ latest offer included raises that over the life of the three-year contract would increase union members' hourly pay by nearly $2 per hour to $39.20. The union's last offer sought increases that would equal $53 per hour by the last year of the contract. The employers contend that the OCU members are some of the highest paid office workers in the nation and in addition to their pay receive a pension, health care benefits free of premiums, and 20 paid holidays a year.