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Ports Work to Recover as ILWU Says Ratification Process Will Begin

Longshore tentative contract agreement
California ports welcomed the new of the tentative longshore contract agreement

Published Jun 16, 2023 5:04 PM by The Maritime Executive

Ports and terminals along the U.S. West Coast are working to catch up and clear out any backlogs that developed due to the labor shortage of the past days now that the Pacific Maritime Association and International Longshore and Warehouse Union reported a tentative agreement after 13 months of negotiations. News of the agreement was welcomed widely within the port and shipping communities while the union noted that the ratification process would take a few months to complete.

“While the final decision is up to our members, we feel our time at the bargaining table was well spent and that the agreement represents the hard work of our rank and file and the sacrifices they made during the pandemic,” said ILWU President Willie Adams in a statement.

Both the ILWU and the PMA are declining to make any official comments on the terms of the agreement other than it is for six years. “We will not be sharing details of the tentative agreement publicly until we have completed the ratification process,” said Adams.

People familiar with the negotiations told The Wall Street Journal that the new contract calls for increasing longshore workers' pay by a third over the six years of the contract and would be retroactive to the expiration of the prior contract on July 1, 2022. They are reporting that basic pay would be increased by 10 percent in the first year from last year’s $46.23 per hour to just over $50 per hour. In addition, there will be a total of $70 million for a one-time “hero bonus” to be split among the workers in recognition of their efforts to keep the supply chain moving during the pandemic. No details are being reported on the more contentious issues such as automation.

There was universal relief that the agreement had been reached with many organizations issuing statements welcoming the news. President Joe Biden congratulated both sides and thanked Acting Labor Secretary Julie Su for her role in bringing the negotiations to an agreement. The White House privately hopes her visible role will help complete what has turned into a contentious confirmation process for the secretary. 

“This is great news for the West Coast ports and the supply chain all across America. The contract agreement will have a hugely beneficial impact to the U.S. economy, which depends on our ports and the trade they facilitate,” said the Port of Long Beach. Gene Seroka, Executive Director of the Port of Los Angeles highlighted that the agreement “brings the stability and confidence that customers have been seeking.”

The ILWU noted that the ratification procedures start with a contract caucus that convenes delegates from the union’s 29 locals up and down the West Coast. These delegates will carefully review the tentative agreement and make a recommendation to the rank and file who will then vote on the tentative agreement.

“We urge the parties to quickly ratify the tentative agreement to bring certainty back to the West Coast ports,” said Matthew Shay, President and CEO of the National Retail Federation. He added in, “It is essential to begin the negotiation process early for the next labor contract and avoid a future lapse in continuity.”

As of the end of the day on Thursday, the Marine Exchange of Southern California however was saying the situation in the ports remained fluid. During the day on Thursday, they said two vessels in port had rescheduled their departures with the CMA CGM Laperouse delaying 14 hours due to labor. Four other containerships in port had previously delayed their scheduled departure times. Two other delayed vessels however departed on Thursday. Three inbound vessels also reported delays but Captain Kip Louttit, Executive Director of the Marine Exchange of Southern California, was hopeful that there would no longer be a need for special reporting and that port operations would quickly return to normal.