UNION OFFICIAL SEES OPTIMISM FOR ILWU-PMA SETTLEMENT
A representative of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union told shippers at a West Coast industry conference Monday he is optimistic an agreement will be reached between the Pacific Maritime Association and the union before the end of the cooling-off period.
'I'm optimistic because getting through the technology agreement was huge,' said Lindsay McLaughlin, legislative representative for the ILWU, at the International Intermodal Expo in Anaheim, Calif. 'We're well over half way there.'
The PMA ended a 12-day lockout in October after President Bush invoked the Taft-Hartley Act, which started the 80-day cooling-off period during which the two sides must hammer out a new contract. The cooling-off period ends Dec. 28.
McLaughlin said his biggest concern is that industry groups that the ILWU has cooperatively worked with have 'become mired in this situation.'
He emphasized that since the 1971 West Coast ports strike there has been relative peace between the union and the shipping industry, and that there's no reason not to have another 30 years of calm and cooperation.
'At the end of the day the issues that divide us are far smaller than the issues that bring us together,' McLaughlin said.
While not commenting on the specifics of the ILWU-PMA contract negotiations, McLaughlin said that both sides understand that 'finding common ground has never been so urgent as it is today.'
He said the ILWU and industry should work together on mutually beneficial ways to reduce port congestion, which has reached 'crisis proportions.'
According to ILWU studies, many West Coast container terminals could more efficiently use up to 50 percent of their space. 'These wasteful practices must end,' McLaughlin said.
In the mid-1990s, the ILWU worked with APL's Global Gate South terminal in the port of Los Angeles to develop paperless cargo-handling technology, making it one of the most efficient ports in the region. The terminal's container throughput increased from 1,800 moves a day in 1996 to more than 4,000 moves daily today.
Shippers expressed disappointment that the PMA did not send a representative to the International Intermodal Expo, which comprises members from the National Industrial Transportation league, Intermodal Association of North America, and Transportation Intermediaries Association.
'I think the PMA missed an incredible opportunity,' said Peter Gatti, vice president of international policy for the NIT League. 'All we wanted to do was to have the two sides represent the basis of where they're coming from.'