Longshore Union Sues
by Erik Siemers
The private operator of the Port of Portland's Terminal 6 is being sued in federal court as part of an ongoing labor dispute that for the past two weeks has slowed operations at the port's lone container terminal.
The International Longshore and Warehouse Union and the Pacific Maritime Association on Thursday filed a complaint in U.S. District Court in Portland seeking to forceTerminal 6 operator ICTSI Oregon Inc. to comply with a four-year-old labor pact and hand over work now given to a non-maritime union.
The ILWU Local 8 handles longshore work and other duties at Terminal 6, but in recent weeks has staked a jurisdictional claim on work maintaining refrigerated shipping containers that since the early 1970s has been done by the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers.
The action has left port officials baffled. The dispute centers on work handled by two to four people per year and comes after decades of the two unions working in harmony.
The IBEW has conducted the work under a collective bargaining agreement with the port. When the port handed over operations of T6 to Philippines-based terminal operator ICTSI in 2010, the deal included language indicating that the work would stay with the IBEW.
But with the terminal's operations now in private hands, the longshore union believes the work would now be governed by a six-year collective bargaining agreement reached in 2008 between the ILWU and the Pacific Maritime Association covering all West Coast ports.
The maritime association is a collective bargaining association that represents groups including stevedoring companies and terminal operators. In this case, the association is suing ICTSI, one of its own members.
ICTSI is failing to follow the contract that establishes jurisdictional harmony at all West Coast ports," ILWU Coast Committeeman Leal Sundet said in a prepared statement. "Local longshoremen are ready, able and willing to get to work moving cargo, and we hope that this lawsuit will stop ICTSI from violating its contract and clear up the mess it's causing at Portland's Terminal 6."
ICTSI officials couldn't be reached for comment.
Sundet also said the Pacific Maritime Association has instructed ICTSI to assign the refrigerated container work to the longshoremen.
"Its failure to do so is causing PMA member carriers to bypass Portland," Sundet said.
The dispute is also in front of the National Labor Relations Board .
Last week, the Port of Portland filed an unfair labor practice charge with the NLRB. Though it's no longer a party to the labor issue, the port contends the ILWU's action has significantly impacted container operations, causing costly days for shipping customers.
Work at T6 slowed to a crawl last week. Port Spokesman Josh Thomas on Thursday said trucks remained backed up at the terminal gates awaiting access to cargo.
"We're open for business, but there's reduced productivity and efficiency," Thomas said. Port officials were informed last week by the NLRB that a decision on the labor dispute could come "within days," Thomas said.
Click here to view a copy of the ILWU's lawsuit against ICTSI.
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