Tentative agreement reached in West Coast port dispute

West Coast port employers and labor have finally reached a tentative agreement, and port truckers serving the 29 Pacific ports are asking terminal operators to waive or reduce backlog related fees.

The Pacific Maritime Association and the International Longshore and Warehouse Union announced a proposed agreement on a five-year contract, but provided no details. “Our ports now can resume full operation,” the PMA and ILWU announced Friday (Feb. 20).

Oakland officials said while full productivity is being restored, truckers likely will face periodic traffic build-ups at terminals. Cargo movement should improve soon in West Coast ports, but recovery from the backlog could take six to eight weeks.

Trucking companies will spend months clearing the cargo, said the Intermodal Conference of the California Trucking Association. Conference Executive Director Alex Cherin asked terminal operators and steamship lines to reduce or waive charges related to backlog in the short term.

“Our trucking members have been significantly impacted by the events of the last few months and we respectfully call on the PMA members to work with us to ease the operational and financial burdens we face as we help the industry dig out from under this backlog,” Cherin said.

The conference of more than 200 carriers will make formal requests regarding the fees over the next two weeks.

The organization representing port employers and the dockworkers must ratify the proposal, but it is uncertain when a vote will occur.

Meetings began in May on the contract affecting workers in 29 ports. Issues included labor jurisdiction, benefits, technology, but especially arbitration. The PMA says the ILWU began a work slowdown last fall.

In response, the largest West Coast ports suspended nighttime vessel work shifts. This month, ship work assignments were suspended on weekends and holidays to avoid paying premium wages.