Union tensions boil at ports of Seattle and Tacoma

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Longshoremen and container terminal operators are currently in disputes concerning a slow-down of work at the ports of Seattle and Tacoma.

However, longshoremen deny that slowdowns have occurred; blaming the shortage of trucks for the cargo congestion witnessed at West Coast ports, according to the Capital Press.

Peter Friedmann, executive director of the Agriculture Transportation Coalition said that despite the insufficient number of trucks and large new ships overwhelming ports, longshoremen have contributed to the congestion.

Friedmann added: “I think it’s primarily jurisdiction over jobs as the terminals want to automate.”

Getzug, a spokesman for the Pacific Maritime Association (PMA) said: “Traditionally, when we’ve seen these slowdowns, they have a habit of spreading. That’s what’s troubling here.”

Craig Merrilees, communications director for the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) believes that the terminal operators’ are largely at fault for this slow-down of work because they pay truckers poorly and cannot recruit enough of them as a result.

According to Jim Tessier, a labour consultant and critic of some ILWU officials, the dispute over slowdowns could escalate if longshoremen are locked out of those facilities by the terminal operators.

Tessier concludes by saying that the slowdowns may have been triggered by the union trying to jumpstart negotiations, or as a reaction to PMA’s unwillingness to revise a recent counter-offer.

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