PMA shoots down union proposal, submits its own plan to union caucus

| 7/25/2002

After a weekend of what they called "fruitless bargaining," the International Longshore and Warehouse Union negotiating committee began its caucus July 22 by presenting the Pacific Maritime Association's latest proposal.

The PMA shot down the plan proposed by the ILWU last Tuesday. The ILWU's technological proposal asked for jurisdiction over all remaining work and planning positions currently outsourced to other workforces.

In their July 17 response to the union's proposal, PMA President Joe Miniace said, "We are pleased that the union has finally recognized the need to modernize the West Coast ports and introduce technology to the terminals. "The union's proposal does not adequately address the technology and efficiency needs of the West Coast waterfront," he added. "This proposal may have taken the ball a few yards down the field, but there's a long way to go with time running out on the clock."

The union responded by expressing its obvious disappointment in the PMA's reaction to the union proposal. "PMA's response to the union's proposals was disappointing," the ILWU said.

The PMA describes its new plan as "a comprehensive coast-wide labor proposal that will enable the introduction of critical technology to modernize West Coast ports, while guaranteeing that the ILWU-represented longshoremen will continue as among the highest paid workers in America."

According to the PMA, full-time longshore workers currently earn an average of $106,883 per year, receive a benefit package with an average of 3.5 weeks of vacation, 13 paid holidays and a non-contributory pension plan with annual retirement benefits after 35 years equal to about $40,000, plus a fully employer-paid health package, which costs the employers an average of $42,000 per employee per year. The PMA says its proposal will increase the overall compensation package of ILWU longshoremen by 17 percent over a five-year period.

Appealing to members of the union, Miniace said, "This proposal not only concedes to the union its demand of maintenance of health benefits, but also enhances the current health plan."

To upgrade capacity and improve the productivity of West Coast ports, the PMA's proposal dealing with technology guarantees all currently registered marine clerks will continue to have the opportunity to work as marine clerks, and new work created from the technology within clerks' jurisdiction will be ILWU marine clerks' work.

"This proposal reflects the top priorities of both the ILWU and the PMA," Miniace stated. "We believe this proposal represents an opportunity to modernize the West Coast waterfront and improve the long-term job security of the ILWU dock workers who are integral to the efficient operation and competitive standing of the West Coast ports."

Contract negotiations on the West Coast waterfront have been closely watched, due to their significant economic impact. Containerized cargo that moves through the West Coast ports represents more than seven percent of the United States' Gross Domestic Product and supports nearly four million trade-related jobs throughout the country.

Miniace emphasized the importance of the contract proposal to be considered by the ILWU caucus by noting that "the representatives of the ILWU will be considering issues that not only impact the future of the ILWU membership at West Coast ports but have a direct impact on the United States' economy and millions of their fellow working Americans."

PMA's proposal comes after two months of negotiations, and it is expected to be voted on at the union caucus this week. However, the union's initial reaction to the PMA's counterproposal expresses their obvious disapproval.

"PMA's counterproposals included cutbacks in benefits, pensions and arbitration process," the union said. "This was offset by small wage and pension increases, a guarantee for clerks, all over the life of a five-year contract. It is clear that the PMA figures it can obtain this historic technology package without giving anything in return.

"The gains that the employer's have been offered far outweigh the union's demands. The union negotiating committee unanimously has recommended a 'no' vote, and these latest proposals will be submitted to the caucus for democratic debate. Most likely, negotiations will continue."
--René Tankersley