Terminal Operator, Union
by Jim Redden
The labor-mangement dispute at Terminal 6 at the Port of Portland is continuing. Now the terminal operator and the union representing its workers are sparring over a recent letter from 14 Oregon legislators urging them to make peace.
The terminal is operated by ITCSI Oregon, the local arm of an international terminal operating company based in the Phillipines. The workers are represented by Local 8 of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union. They have been fighting for years, with each side accusing the other of causing work slowdowns that recently prompted Hanjin Shipping -- the largest shipping line serving the terminal -- to pull out of the port entirely.
The bi-partisan group of legislators wrote to leaders on both sides on March 10. They also sent the letter to the heads of the ILWU International and the Pacific Maritime Association, which represents all port operators on the West Coast.
In the letter, the legislators blamed Hanjin's departure on the dispute that has been happening since 2012 and called it a blow to Oregon's economy. Hanjin provided around 80 percent of the service at Terminal 6.
"We stand unified representing bipartisan leadership of the Oregon Legislature in calling for a fundamental and long-standing resolution of differences that will stabilize the T-6 operation and protect hundreds of ILWU jobs and thousands of trade-dependent jobs in our state," according to the letter.
"We call upon each of you as leaders to come together as champions of our regional and national economy to foster a path forward that serves all our citizens and respective constituencies."
ICTSI Oregon and ILWU Local 8 issued statements after receiving the letter. The both said it was the first time they had been contacted by the legislators. Then they accused each other of causing the problems.
"ICTSI Oregon, Inc. appreciates the lawmaker's concern and is open to all constructive efforts to find a resolution. The issue continues to be that the ILWU has engaged in -- and been found guilty of -- a systematic campaign to undermine the terminal's success. We are glad that lawmakers understand the importance of Terminal 6 to Oregon's economy and hope their concern will encourage the ILWU to become a partner for progress. Only then will the terminal once again be an attractive stop for carriers coming into the Port of Portland," said ICTSI Oregon Chief Executive Officer Elvis Ganda, referring to ruling by U.S. District Court Judge Michael Simon that ILWU Local 8 violated his order to end a slowdown.
The day before the letter was sent, Simon ordered the ILWU to pay $60,000 in attorney's fees to the National Labor Relations Board for violating his 2012 order to end a work slow down.
Union spokeswoman Jennifer Sargent says the blame lies with ICTSI Oregon, however.
"The signers of this letter didn't contact the union to discuss these issues, and that's unfortunate. We'd have asked them to consider the fact that the Port of Portland has ten marine terminals, all of which are experiencing good labor relations and optimal production except for the one operated by ICTSI. ICTSI signed conflicting contracts when coming from the Philippines to operate Terminal 6 in 2010, and ICTSI has been sued by its peers in the shipping industry -- its fellow employers -- for failing to abide by its labor agreement. Terminal 6 doesn't have a labor problem; it has a management problem. As in any workplace, when poor management improves, productivity follows, said the statement," said Sargent, referring to a lawsuit between ICTSI oregon and the PMA.
Sargent also said ILWU Local 8 is open to discussions, but added, "Perhaps it's time for the Port to admit that its experiment of having a Philippines-based company run our region's sole container terminal has failed. Oregon deserves better than the ongoing problems caused by this outlier employer."
Port of Portland Exectuive Director Bill Wyatt says no other operator will take over Terminal 6 if ICTSI Oregon leaves, and they port will have no choice but to close it down.
The PMA and ILWU recently approved a tentative contact expected to restore operations at all West Coast ports. The Terminal 6 dispute has continued, however.
"We understand that this dispute has now been going on since 2012 and we are gravely concerned that without resolution we will be unable to attract new carrier service to the market and reestablish the jobs and trade flow that our economy depends on," according to the legislative letter.
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