Port of Tacoma

Longshore negotiators take a break as ports’ slowdown continues

While cargo continues to pile up at West Coast ports, negotiations aimed at reaching a new long-term agreement between Longshore workers and shipping lines have recessed for nearly two weeks.

The halt in so-called “main table” negotiations came at the insistence of the International Longshore Workers Union, claimed the Pacific Maritime Association, which represents shipping lines and terminal operators seeking a new deal with the union.

Talks are scheduled to resume Dec. 2. In the meantime, the PMA said, negotiation subcommittees will continue working on specific subjects that ultimately will be part of the full agreement.

The halt in major talks comes after three weeks of slow activity on the docks that has backed up both import and export cargoes and caused layoffs in industries that depend on international trade to create business. The previous contract between the ILWU and the PMA expired July 1. The PMA claims Longshore workers have deliberately cut back the pace of work on the docks to gain leverage in negotiations. The ILWU claims mismanagement of the trade business and changes in policies on the docks are responsible for the slowdown.