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American ShipperWarehouse

SoCal ILWU office workers ready to set walkout deadline

SoCal ILWU office workers ready to set walkout deadline

The union representing maritime clerical workers for the West Coast's main ocean carriers warned that if two-week-old contract talks do not progress soon, it is prepared to order a walkout of members as early as this week.

      Talks between the 950-member-strong Local 63 Office Clericals Unit of International Longshore and Warehouse Union and the ocean carriers continue. But union representatives now report that both sides remain far apart on key issues of health and pension benefits.

   “We met on Saturday with the employers ' and again we just made very little progress, so things are kind of slowing down,” John Fageaux Jr., president of Local 63 OCU, told the Associated Press. “It’s a cause for some concern at this point.”

   The union said it would have to evaluate Monday's talks before announcing any decision on setting a walkout deadline. A decision is expected Tuesday, though a deadline would not necessarily prompt an immediate walkout.

   The union and ocean carriers have been in ongoing negotiations since the workers' current contract expired at the end of June. A unanimous vote last week by the Local 63 OCU members authorized union officials to call a strike if negotiations failed.

   Local 63 OCU represents clerical and office workers for 22 shipping line and terminal facilities in the Long Beach and Los Angeles area. While members of the ILWU and also referred to as clerks, the OCU does not represent the more prominent ILWU dockworkers, who are gearing up for their own contract negotiations early next year.

   Local 63 OCU officials reported that they had the backing of the larger 15,000-member union locals that represent dockworkers at the neighboring ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles, and that the larger group had agreed to honor OCU picket lines if a strike is called.

   However, as the powerful ILWU dockworking members are prohibited from calling their own strike to support the OCU because the clerical workers do not actually work at the ports, any show of unity would likely be limited to dockworker slowdowns in the port or short work stoppages at certain facilities.