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PMA, ILWU Talk Contract Extension
to Avoid Repeat of Port Slowdown

by Dan Wheat
Capital Press, November 4, 2016

The container ship Benjamin Franklin calls at Terminal 18 of the Port of Seattle.  West Coast container port operators and the union representing longshoremen have agreed to hold further talks to extend their contract and avoid a work slowdown. The Pacific Maritime Association and International Longshore and Warehouse Union have talked about a contract extension and agreed to meet again.

The parties met Nov. 1 in San Francisco and issued a joint statement afterward saying they will meet again at a date to be agreed upon. They said they would make no further comments.

The current collective bargaining agreement covering 29 West Coast ports expires July 1, 2019.

The inability of the two sides to reach an agreement two years ago led to a union work slowdown for months at the container ports that cost farmers, manufacturers and retailers across the western U.S. hundreds of millions of dollars in losses because they could not get their goods to market.

On the eve of the Nov. 1 meeting, U.S. Reps. Dave Reichert and Dan Newhouse, Washington Republicans, and Kurt Schrader, an Oregon Democrat, renewed their plea for the PMA and ILWU to work together to avoid another slowdown.

They said the 2014-2015 disruption cost the U.S. economy an estimated $7 billion. Growers were forced to dump spoiled produce, manufacturers were delayed in getting parts and retailers had empty shelves, the representatives wrote in a letter to the PMA and ILWU.

"The impact was not limited to the West Coast but ultimately was felt by communities across the country and the larger economy," they wrote.

Additionally, Newhouse and Reichert issued a statement commenting on a U.S. Government Accountability Office report titled, "Better Supply Chain Information Could Improve DOT's Freight Efforts."

The report recommends that in developing a freight data strategy the Department of Transportation identify supply chain information needed, potential sources of the information, data gaps and how to use the information to inform freight efforts.

Newhouse's Port Performance Program amendment signed into law in December 2015 also addresses that need. It requires the Bureau of Transportation Statistics to collect and report port statistics to be published annually and used to keep supply chains stable.

The report lays out challenges facing ports and highlights the need for DOT port performance measures to improve port operations.

Clear baseline data on port performance "is an important step to ensure our ports are working effectively and we eagerly anticipate progress on upcoming recommendations from the department," Newhouse and Reichert said.

The report said some ports are addressing their lack of large enough cranes and other infrastructure to handle larger ships.

Thirteen of 21 selected industry groups representing shippers of some top commodities moving through West Coast ports said some of their members modified their supply chains and diverted to other ports because of the slowdown, the report said.

Dan Wheat
PMA, ILWU Talk Contract Extension to Avoid Repeat of Port Slowdown
Capital Press, November 4, 2016

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