The Pacific Maritime Association (PMA) said on Wednesday they were again suspending operations at West Coast shipping ports for several days.  Meanwhile, the parties returned to the negotiating table yesterday morning. PMA said it will halt loading and unloading at the ports, including busy operations at Long Beach and Los Angeles, on Thursday, Saturday, Sunday this week and on Monday next week.

On Friday in Washington, Reps. Dave Reichert (R-WA), Kurt Schrader (D-OR), Dan Newhouse (R-WA) and Jim Costa (D-CA) were planning to introduce a House Resolution urging the president to take action should a shutdown occur and calling on the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) and the Pacific Maritime Association (PMA) to conclude their negotiations.

PMA said it was taking this action because it does not want to pay higher premium wages for weekend and holiday operations while it contends that the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) workers are conducting a work slowdown.

“Last week, PMA made a comprehensive contract offer designed to bring these talks to conclusion,” said PMA spokesman Wade Gates.  “The ILWU responded with a demand they knew we could not meet and continued slowdowns that will soon bring West Coast ports to gridlock.  What they’re doing amounts to a strike with pay, and we will reduce the extent to which we pay premium rates for such a strike.”

In turn, the union denied taking any strike action and blamed PMA, who it said have not made themselves available for negotiations since last Friday.  “This is an effort by the employers to put economic pressure on our members and to gain leverage in contract talks,” said ILWU President Robert McEllrath.  “The union is standing by ready to negotiate as we have been for the past several days.”

Negotiations between PMA and ILWU were to resume this Wednesday in San Francisco but were canceled.  The two sides last met a week ago.

It has been reported that parties have already hammered out terms for wages, benefits, and retaining workers displaced by automation and are in the what is hoped to be the final phase of talks towards a five-year agreement that would end the port stalemate.  However, the ILWU wants the power to unilaterally fire arbitrators in labor grievances, rather than require the consent of port employers.

Talks have been ongoing since last May to reach a deal for the West Coast ports, which handle about 40 percent of U.S. imports, with a value equal to about 12.5 percent of gross domestic product, according to the PMA.