Missing Parts, Subordination Claims
by Erik Siemers
While the labor dispute at the Port of Portland continues to slog along in court, problems persist at Terminal 6.
On Friday, port officials complained of suspicious missing parts for a crane and claim longshore workers are disobeying direct orders.
The new accusations arose during a hearing Friday morning before U.S. District Judge Michael Simon, who decided to extend through Thursday a 10-day temporary restraining order issued July 3 prohibiting the International Longshoremen and Warehouse Union from intentionally slowing down work at Terminal 6.
The longshore union has been accused of intentionally disrupting production at the port's lone container terminal as part of a dispute with terminal operator ICTSI Oregon Inc. over whether its workers should have the right to two jobs plugging, unplugging and monitoring refrigerated containers called "reefers."
ICTSI and the port last week agreed to temporarily cede those jobs -- handled until now by the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers -- to the longshoremen while the dispute makes its way to the National Labor Relations Board .
But Michael Garone, an attorney for ICTSI, told Simon Friday that new issues arose this week regarding the two disputed jobs. He said the longshoremen have been attempting to split the work handling reefers between two of its units -- the Local 8 mechanics and Local 40 clerks -- against the wishes of their employer, ICTSI.
"We're basically having an insubordination situation," Garone said. "They're doing it in the manner they want to do it and are ignoring the instructions of ICTSI."
Barone also told Simon of issues with the ongoing maintenance of one of T6's nine cranes. Critical parts "have gone missing in the middle of the night," Garone said. One gear in particular has gone missing twice and was last seen in the hands of one of the longshoremen's lead mechanics, Garone reported.
Eleanor Morton, an attorney for the longshore union, told Simon that she disagreed with the claim that longshore workers are engaged in any slowdowns, though she said she had no knowledge of the missing parts issue.
The ongoing labor battle has significantly impacted the flow of cargo through the Port of Portland. Initially, both of the ocean-going container carriers that call on the port weekly -- South Korea's Hanjin and Germany's Hapag-Lloyd -- had said they would bypass the port until the issue was resolved.
That's still the case with Hanjin, which accounts for an estimated 80 percent of the business at Terminal 6, Barone said. Hapag-Lloyd, which accounts for about 15 percent of T6's business, made its second vessel call in two weeks on Wednesday, with Garone saying "it wasn't a stellar performance."
Production was slow at the start of the day Wednesday, but improved in the afternoon after labor and management held a mid-day meeting, Garone told Simon.
It's the second straight week that the longshore union's productivity has come into question at Terminal 6.
The NLRB's Seattle office last week filed court papers asking Simon to declare the longshoremen in contempt of court for violating his restraining order. The NLRB claims that while working a Hapag-Lloyd vessel July 4th, the longshoremen intentionally operated vehicles slowly or asked for instructions to perform work they have experience doing.
Simon extended his temporary restraining order through to Thursday in order to time it with hearings he will hear on two separate but related court cases. One is the contempt charges by the NLRB, the other is the NLRB's request to turn the restraining order into a preliminary injunction.
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