An on-again, off-again dispute between the International Longshore and Warehouse Union and ICTSI, operator of Terminal 6 at the Port of Portland, Oregon, once again shut down the port’s only container terminal for two days this week.
A spokesperson for ICTSI said Thursday that the terminal was shut down for two days beginning on Wednesday because of ILWU work stoppages. ICTSI said the ILWU is “essentially holding the vessel hostage,” referring to a Hanjin ship calling at the terminal this week. The ILWU has been “hard-timing” ICTSI for the past several weeks, the terminal operator stated. Hanjin is the largest container line calling at Portland, accounting for about 70 percent of the port’s container volume.
The Port of Portland confirmed the shutdown, and noted workers returned to work for the morning shift today. The Hanjin ship was being unloaded during the morning shift.
ILWU spokeswoman Jennifer Sargent issued a statement Friday afternoon. In it, she mentions the collective bargaining agreement between Hanjin and ICTSI expired on July 1. Though there has been no impasse declared, the lack of a contract removed the no strike clause, she said, and makes any arbitration procedure also moot.
The statement reads:
“There are multiple pay disputes and associated grievances related to ICTSI’s mismanagement of Terminal 6 that are causing workers to exercise their legally protected right to collective action. ILWU-represented longshore workers and marine clerks would like to resolve the disputes and return to work. ICTSI was informed both on both Wednesday and Thursday that work would resume upon resolution of the grievances. ICTSI’s refusal to resolve the pay disputes is what has caused longshore workers to continue exercising their legally protected collective action.
On Wednesday, ILWU Local 8 took legally protected collective action against ICTSI in an attempt to resolve specific grievances involving pay issues. ILWU Local 40, which represents marine clerks, followed Thursday.”
The ILWU has been working without a contract on the U.S. West Coast since July 1, when its agreement with the Pacific Maritime Association ended. Because the two parties have not extended the contract, workers can walk off the job or strike for any reason without violating contract clauses or laws.
The Port of Portland announced Aug. 22 that it would cancel an agreement with the ILWU in regard to two refer jobs, citing a large drop in productivity at Terminal 6. Port Executive Director Bill Wyatt said the jobs would be terminated after a 30-day cooling-off period, which ended on Sept. 22. Port Director of Commercial Development Sam Ruda said he believes the ILWU issues in Portland are more localized, stemming from problems at the port rather than the coastwide negotiations. Nonetheless, the walkoff hurt business, he said.
“At the moment, it’s only a Hanjin vessel, but it’s very disruptive, not only to Hanjin but to Hapag-Lloyd and Westwood as well,” Ruda said. “It clearly isn’t good. Because there is no contract, there is no grievance machinery to adjudicate these issues. From a port prospective, we want the container operation to be viable, and this has been horribly disruptive to the shipping community.”
Container lifts per crane, per hour, have been around 20, compared with 28 or higher that had been the norm before a jurisdictional dispute between the ILWU and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers broke out two years ago.