ILWU offers technology solution, no response from PMA

| Friday, July 19, 2002

In an attempt to break the stalemate surrounding the West Coast longshore contract negotiations, the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) has presented a sweeping proposal on technology to the employer group, the Pacific Maritime Association (PMA).

The proposal would give the PMA the ability to institute computer technology for the free flow of information in return for the PMA's recognition of ILWU jurisdiction over the remaining jobs and economic enhancements as modeled on the 1960 Mechanization and Modernization Agreement. As it currently stands, when information from overseas reaches a dock terminal, it is re-keyed or inputted into the system by a clerk.

The union's proposal will allow information from outside computer systems to flow directly into terminal operating systems at West Coast ports. This information will not have to be re-keyed by ILWU marine clerks.

In exchange for this innovation, the union wants to perform all remaining jobs. These include any new jobs created by technology, terminal control and pre-gate supervisor jobs, and the work of planning ships, rails and container yards. Currently, the union performs about 50 percent of planning on the West Coast, with the other 50 percent outsourced to non-bargaining unit workforces.

The union says the cost savings and increases in productivity benefiting the employers far outweigh the union consolidation of the remaining planning jobs on the West Coast.

"The union has stepped up and changed the jurisdiction section of our contract dramatically," ILWU International President Jim Spinosa said. "Now it's time for the PMA to meet us."

The PMA told the Associated Press it was studying the proposal and would respond Wednesday. However, the two groups met at 5 p.m. Wednesday, July 17, and reviewed their respective positions on arbitration and technology. After a brief caucus at 7:15 p.m. the technology subcommittee and the arbitration subcommittee split off and continued to meet.

With no public response from PMA on the ILWU proposal, the two groups signed yet another 24-hour extension in anticipation of further meetings Thursday, July 18. The ILWU and PMA continue to meet on a daily basis. The contract is being extended day by day. This week is critical in trying to hammer out a contract because of a July 22 caucus date similar to the July 1 contract expiration date.

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