Seattle work dispute disrupts West Coast negotiations

Seattle labour dispute disrupts West Coast negotiations

A dispute over the work assignment at a terminal in Seattle threatens to cause disruption to ongoing labour talks between the International Longshore & Warehouse Union (ILWU) and the Pacific Maritime Association (PMA).

In a statement released on 27 September, the ILWU accused stevedoring company SSA Marine Inc. – PMA member and operator of the largest container terminal in Seattle – of colluding with another union in Seattle to trigger a National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) hearing over workforce assignment at the Seattle terminal.

The move will trigger a hearing that will allow SSA to employ another workforce for onshore power procedures, according to ILWU, excluding its union members from performing the task.

Connecting ships to onshore power, also known as cold ironing, is a work the “the employers expressly agreed to assign to the ILWU” in a contract from over a decade ago and that “the ILWU exclusively performs in the Pacific Northwest”, the ILWU pointed out.

The union argued that this represents a clear violation of the collective-bargaining agreement with the PMA.

READ: ILWU contract concern pushing box imports to US East Coast

“We are shocked that SSA is taking such an action, and we are currently regrouping to determine how to proceed in negotiations while we watch an employer violate the very provision of the contract over which the parties were bargaining,” Coast Committeeman Cameron Williams in the statement. 

Talks between the PMA and the ILWU began on 10 May to produce new labour contracts for 22,000 West Coast dockworkers.

Negotiations are still ongoing after missing the July 1 deadline.

Last July, the parties reached a tentative agreement on terms for health benefits, subject to agreement on the other issues in the negotiations.

Maintenance of health benefits (MOB) is an important part of the contract being negotiated between employers represented by the PMA and workers represented by the ILWU.

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