« Back | LOS ANGELES / LONG BEACH WATERFRONT LABOR NEGOTIATIONS UPDATEDate: Tue, Nov 27th, 2012
LOS ANGELES / LONG BEACH WATERFRONT LABOR NEGOTIATIONS UPDATE
OCU Again Initiates a Work Stoppage in Support of Unreasonable "Featherbedding" Demands; Rejects Employers' Offers for Fair Contracts
(LOS ANGELES November 27, 2012; 3:00 PM) - 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"):
In a disappointing development, the OCU once again initiated a strike today, picketing at one harbor employer's terminal facilities, despite the harbor employers' offers of complete job security, increased wages and pensions, guaranteed pay, and maintenance of all generous health benefits.
Statements released by the OCU attempt to justify the strike by claiming that the employers are trying to outsource jobs, but the facts do not support this claim. Consider the following:
- The employers have offered complete protection against outsourcing by providing an absolute guarantee that no OCU workers will be laid off for the term of the new agreement. Every regular OCU worker has a guaranteed job under the contract offered by the employers.
- The employers have also offered the OCU 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. The employers have no incentive to outsource OCU work when they are obligated to pay OCU employees whether there is work to do or not.
- Not one OCU job has been sent overseas, or anywhere else. The OCU claim that the employers outsourced "over 51 permanent positions ... in recent years," but the truth is that the 51 employees they identify are individuals who retired with full benefits, quit, or passed away during the past three years. Not one of the 51 job positions they identify has been given to a non-union employee or sub-contracted away; there simply has not been a business need for replacing these workers.
- The expired contract provides a grievance procedure that the OCU can use any time it feels that employers are diverting union work through technology or any other means. The employers' proposed contract keeps these grievance procedures completely intact, giving the OCU powerful protections against diversion of union employees' work. For example, employers must give an OCU worker 6 hours of pay any time a non-union employee performs union work (no matter how small the task), unless the non-union employee is training an OCU worker or there is an operational emergency. When a technical violation occurs, the employers have a proven track record of acknowledging the mistake and paying the contractual penalty.
The OCU's tactics are really designed to protect and promote "featherbedding"-the practice of requiring employers to call in temporary employees and hire new permanent employees even when there is no work to perform. These unacceptable demands encourage and reward absenteeism, reduce efficiency, and succeed only in requiring payment to OCU employees when no work exists.
In the wake of the 2008 global economic crisis and its devastating impact on the container shipping industry, OCU leadership agreed to terms that would restrict the historic featherbedding, allowing the employers to hire new employees or call in temporary employees only when there was a genuine business need to do so. The OCU now insists that any new contract reinstate all of the old featherbedding practices, giving them complete control over employer staffing levels. For example:
- The OCU enjoy extremely generous paid time off benefits (with average absenteeism from vacation, sick leave, holidays, and other leaves totaling over 29%, or three and one-half months, of the year). In the face of this absenteeism, the OCU demand that when employees are absent, for whatever reason, the employers must call in a temporary employee to fill the vacancy on the first day and for the duration of the vacancy.
- The OCU also insist that the employers hire a new employee every time an employee retires or quits, even if there is no work for the new employee to perform.
- The OCU's last written proposal before the strike includes an unlawful demand that employers convert some managers to union-represented clerks as a reward for giving the OCU misleading and/or false information that the OCU sought to use against the employers during contract negotiations.
During recent negotiations, the employers agreed to relinquish their proposal to control whether and when temporary employees are called in to work, a position they had sought to maintain since the beginning of negotiations in April 2010. The employers offered the OCU three different options for a compromise on the issue of filling temporary vacancies, but the OCU rejected all of these proposals, demanding complete control over staffing.
The OCU has refused to address the needs of the employers; instead, they are pressing demands that would weaken competitiveness of the Los Angeles and Long Beach ports while rewarding and sustaining absenteeism and inefficiency. The OCU are already the highest paid clerical workers in America. The employers' latest proposals would increase OCU annual compensation packages to over $190,000 in wages and benefits by 2016, including:
- Average annual wages up to approximately $90,000;
- Pensions of up to $75,000 per year;
- Maintenance of all benefits in the OCU's extremely generous health plan, for which the OCU pay nothing (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.).
The OCU's demands are difficult to grasp in the midst of a struggling economy, particularly in the Los Angeles / Long Beach harbor community, with Los Angeles County unemployment totaling 10.5 percent in October 2012. 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.