Los Angeles / Long Beach Harbor Employers Association


Date: Thu, Apr 12th, 2012

  Los Angeles/Long Beach Waterfront Labor Negotiations Update

Arbitrator's Decision Sets Uncertain Course for Smooth Operations Again at the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach

OCU Demands Still Seek to Rollback Technology and Reward Absenteeism and Inefficiency, Putting at Risk the Jobs of Working Families and Economic Progress


LOS ANGELES (April 12, 2012) - The negotiating teams representing employers at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach released the following statement regarding the status of negotiations with the International Longshore and Warehouse Union Local 63 Office Clerical Unit ("OCU"):

The industry's Coast Arbitrator has overturned an earlier ruling by the Area Arbitrator that OCU picket lines at four terminals in the Los Angeles-Long Beach port complex last December were not legitimate and that other ILWU locals could not honor them.  The decision could potentially lead to new pickets and wider disruptions at the ports.

After two years of talks, no agreement has been reached in negotiations between harbor employers and the OCU, which represents about 600 office clerks who currently receive average annual compensation packages totaling $165,000.  They are the highest paid clerical workers in America, but comprise only about one percent of the union-represented waterfront labor force at West Coast ports.

The OCU contract expired on June 30, 2010, and OCU workers have been working without a contract.  In November 2011, the employers presented complete proposals for a new contract, but the OCU rejected the proposals and declared an end to contract negotiations.

On December 2, 2011, the OCU struck terminals operated by two of the 14 employers involved in the bargaining, prompting the original ruling by the industry's Area Arbitrator that sent longshoremen back to work.  Lacking the ability to prevent the movement of cargo, the OCU took down their pickets.  Over the past four months, the OCU have continued to work while the Area Arbitrator's ruling was appealed to the Coast Arbitrator by the ILWU.

The OCU continues to press for contract terms that would weaken competitiveness of the Los Angeles and Long Beach ports, while rewarding and sustaining absenteeism and inefficiency.  For instance, their latest demands include:


  • Undoing the technology implementation procedure that they bargained for and agreed to in 2004 and again in 2007.


  • Placing unacceptable limitations on the use of technology that has made the LA/Long Beach ports more efficient and competitive in recent years, such as:


    • Insisting that vendors call, fax, or mail an OCU worker, rather than use the employer's website to access basic information.


    • Refusing to allow automated data transfers that would enable employers to provide customers and vendors with up-to-date cargo information, insisting instead that OCU workers manually enter data into the system even if it means duplication of work and raises the potential for error.


    • Prohibiting carriers, customers, and vendors from using internet portals to access information on employer systems regarding the services the employer is providing them, requiring them to call an OCU worker instead.


  • Requiring employers collectively to hire 52 more union employees even though there is no business need for these employees.


  • Requiring employers to call temporary workers to cover every absence, even when there is no work required to be done when the regular employee is out.


  • Increasing by 26% pensions that already provide a benefit of up to $60,000 per year or more.


  • Increasing wages by 12% over the proposed contract term, resulting in a base wage rate of $45.00 per hour.

These demands are difficult to grasp in the midst of a nascent economic recovery at the ports following a lengthy downturn that has had a severe impact on the container shipping industry and Los Angeles / Long Beach harbor community, where unemployment in Los Angeles County totaled 11.8 percent in February 2012. 

With the ongoing expansion of the Panama Canal and increasing competition among U.S. and international ports, it is more important than ever for employers to meet customer demands for cutting-edge services in order to sustain the fragile economic recovery at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach.

In spite of these economic challenges, the harbor employers have not asked to cut wages or pension benefits.  Instead, the employers have offered the union:


  • Absolute job security -- a guarantee against layoffs.


  • Guaranteed pay of 40 hours a week (37.5 hours for six of the employers) for 52 weeks a year, whether there is work to do or not.


  • Maintenance of the current average wage of $40.50 per hour.


  • Maintenance of generous pension benefits, providing pensions of up to $60,000 per year or more.


  • Maintenance of all in-network benefits in the clerical workers' health care plan -- for which they pay nothing -- although the cost of premiums paid by the employer for family coverage under the plan is $41,000 per year (benefits include, e.g., $0 co-pay for generic drugs; $0 for x-rays, diagnostics, and lab tests; $5 office visit co-pays; 90% coverage for infertility; and more).


  • Maintenance of all other employment benefits (an average of 12 weeks of paid time off every year; meal and transportation allowances; early retirement with full benefits; education reimbursement; etc.)

In return, the employers ask that they only be required to call in or hire workers when there is a business need for work to be performed; that the technology framework the parties agreed upon in 2004 and 2007 be preserved; that the union agree to encourage use of outstanding in-network health plan benefits to control rising costs due to out-of-network abuse; and to end the practice of singling out individual companies for unfair and punitive wages, benefits, and paid time off.

In an effort to resolve the dispute, last summer, the Pacific Maritime Association offered to create a supplement to its agreement with the Longshoremen for the clerical workers, which would have given them the opportunity to earn thousands of dollars more per year more in wages and placed them in the ILWU's health plan -- a plan that the clerical workers' union officers themselves describe as "the best in America."  But the clerical workers rejected this offer.

The OCU's actions reinforce perceptions held by shippers, retailers and other trade partners across the globe that the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach are being held hostage by union self-interest -- in this case, the interests of 600 office clerks.


About the Los Angeles/Long Beach Harbor Employers Association

The Los Angeles/Long Beach Harbor Employers Association is a not-for-profit association representing shipping agencies and terminal operators in Southern California. The Association assists its members in matters relating to the employment of ILWU Local 63 office clerical employees, including the administration of the labor contracts of member companies.

For more information, visit our website: www.harboremployers.com

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Link: http://www.harboremployers.com/web/news/press/details/?LOS-ANGELES-LONG-BEACH-WATERFRONT-LABOR-NEGOTIATIONS-UPDATE-47