Port of Portland Intervenes
by Erik Siemers
The Port of Portland on Friday said it filed a complaint with federal labor authorities over a union dispute that it says has put its key Terminal 6 container terminal in a near-shutdown situation.
The port filed an unfair labor practice charge with the National Labor Relations Boardsaying an action by the International Longshore and Warehouse Union, Local 8, has "significantly impacted container operations at Terminal 6 causing costly delays for area shippers and truckers."
The ILWU is attempting to stake a claim -- through the District Council of Trade Unions -- to work maintaining refrigerated shipping containers, work that the port says has been handled by the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workersunder a collective bargaining agreement since the early 1970s.
A 25-year lease of T6 issued by the port in 2010 to Philippines-based terminal operator ICTSI included language indicating that the work would stay with the IBEW.
But the ILWU contends that once the port was privatized to ICTSI, the T6 fell within an existing collective-bargaining pact with the Pacific Maritime Association, a trade group that represents shippers and terminal operators including ICTSI. As a member of the Pacific Maritime Association, the ILWU says ICTSI isn't bound by any other labor agreements.
"Two years ago, the Port of Portland entered into an agreement with Philippines-based ICTSI in which the port surrendered control over operations at Terminal 6, and now the port needs to step aside and respect ICTSI's contractual obligations to the ILWU and allow longshoremen to do their jobs," ILWU Coast Committeeman Leal Sundet said in a prepared statement.
Global trade publication The Journal of Commerce on Thursday reported that ILWU and a fellow maritime union on the East and Gulf coasts, the International Longshoremen's
Association, were considering an alliance to protect their jurisdictions against non-maritime unions. The ILWU's conflicts last fall over work given to an engineer's union at a new Port of Longview, Wash., grain terminal was cited in the report.
But ILWU spokesman Jennifer Sargent said the union's action at the Port of Portland are unrelated to those talks.
The Port of Portland noted that, since it relinquished control of T6, it's not a direct party in the dispute.
But it has become a broader issue since the squabble over territorial rights has slowed work at the terminal, causing delays for the shippers and truckers it considers its customers. More than 1,000 businesses use T6 to get goods to and from international markets.
Port spokesman Josh Thomas said work Thursday at T6 was "essentially ground to a halt" and activity on Friday was limited.
There's further concern about what effect disruptions could have on future vessel calls.
Shippers are "dependent upon predictability and reliability," Thomas said. "When there are slowdowns and shutdowns, it can impact the sourcing of cargo and vessels."
The NLRB has already held one hearing to determine which union should win the work. The ILWU said an independent arbitrator on Monday ruled in its favor.
The port said it expects an NLRB determination in the next few days.
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