The International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) and the Pacific Maritime Association (PMA) will not have a contract settlement until December at the earliest because the ILWU is suspending negotiations on coastwide issues until December 2.

“Three weeks after initiating a coordinated series of slowdowns that have plagued the major West Coast ports of Tacoma, Seattle, Oakland, Los Angeles, and Long Beach, the ILWU has now taken its slowdown tactics to the bargaining table.  Despite a request from the PMA to continue bargaining, the ILWU has decided to curtail ‘big table’ negotiations starting today through the end of the Thanksgiving weekend – a 12-day break,” ILWU said in a press release yesterday.

As a result of the ILWU’s decision, the only bargaining through December 1 will be limited to subcommittees discussing limited issues, mostly at the individual port level, with most members of the ILWU’s negotiating committee taking an extended break.  “Making matters worse, the ILWU is refusing to agree to a temporary contract extension – similar to one it signed over the summer – despite multiple requests by the PMA.  A contract extension would give both parties access to the well-established waterfront grievance process, and most notably would give employers recourse for the ILWU showdowns that are continuing, ” PMA said.

ILWU spokesman Craig Merrilees said Thursday that “subcommittees focused on specific tasks and problems is the fastest way to make progress on a number of issues that require attention so that further progress can be made by the full committee. The talks are continuing and negotiations are underway this afternoon,” Merrilees said.

Meanwhile, the ILWU work slowdowns that began October 31 in Tacoma and have spread to all major West Coast ports continue, PMA stated.   “In some ports, productivity remains 30 percent or more below normal, as a result of orchestrated ILWU maneuvers. These slowdowns are impacting retailers, farmers, manufacturers, consumers, and others during the holiday season and at a critical time for the U.S. economy,” PMA stated.

“The best holiday gift we can give the nation is a contract agreement,” said PMA spokesman Wade Gates.  “And we can’t reach agreement unless both parties are at the table.”  Negotiations began in May.  The previous contract expired on July 1.