ILWU files complaint against foreign shipping companies in ongoing negotiations.

Tensions simmer at West Coast labor talks
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The International Longshore Workers’ Union (ILWU) in Southern California has issued a statement criticising the behaviour of foreign shipping firms and sea terminal operators during negotiations for a new collective agreement for west coast port workers. While the statement did not provide details of the dispute, it did allege that foreign companies were failing to adhere to workers’ basic health and safety demands. The Pacific Maritime Association, which represents shipping firms and terminal operators, accused the ILWU of “concerted” labour actions that have disrupted several west coast ports from Southern California to Washington. Talks between the two groups started on 10 May, 2022, after the previous agreement expired on 1 July that year.

ILWU Local 13, which represents around 12,000 workers in Southern California, criticised terminal operators and shipping companies for failing to respond to the pandemic’s impact on workers. During this time, the workers helped the industry to keep running, even amidst a “high personal cost” to longshore workers and their families. The union demanded that the firms respect the workers’ health and safety requirements, while alleging that the companies overlooked the members’ hardship and were instead driven by profit. They emphasised that the workers’ demands were reasonable and merely focused on ensuring dignity and respect, which they had fought hard to achieve.

Although the ILWU and the Pacific Maritime Association said they remain committed to negotiating an agreement after regular San Francisco meetings, the PMA vehemently replied to the ILWU’s complaint. The group accused the union of undertaking “concerted and disruptive” labour actions that have led to the virtual cessation of operations at some terminals in Los Angeles and Long Beach, as well as at the ports of Oakland, Tacoma, Seattle, and Hueneme. However, the ILWU replied that dockers remained on duty, and cargo operations at the ports continued uninterrupted.

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