LOS ANGELES, Calif. – The eight-day clerical workers strike, which severely hampered activity at the twin ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach and cost the region close to $8 billion, has been resolved.
The striking clerks, members of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union Local 63 Office Clerical Unit, reached a tentative deal with the 14-employer group of shipping and terminal owners late last night, just before the dispute was to head into mediation.
What role the mediators played, if any, in closing this deal is uncertain at this point. Los Angeles mayor Antonio Villaraigosa told the Reuters news service that a breakthrough came yesterday when the union agreed to mediation. The employer group then said, ‘Why don’t we just do this today,’” and that led to the final round of negotiations and the tentative agreement.
The striking workers had been without a contract for more than two years but ILWU spokespeople said they expect the rank and file will ratify the new agreement. Details about the deal were not made public but Reuters reported ILWU representatives said the two sides had reached agreement on the union’s main beef: the transfer of jobs to workers in other locations for less pay.
The deal, if ratified, will bring to a close strike action which began Nov. 27 and intensified when the picket lines were honored by the 10,000 regional members of the ILWU.
The strike crippled seven of eight Los Angeles terminals and three of six Long Beach terminals. Ships were left unserviced, unable to dock and unload. Ships began diverting from the seaport to competing ports to get around the labour action.
Combined, the Port of Long Beach and the Port of Los Angeles move 40 percent of all containerized trade in the US. More than $300 billion worth of goods flow through the two ports annually.
“The retail community is pleased to see a settlement of the strike. We are happy both parties came together, with assistance from intermediaries, to reach a new contract agreement. The nation’s largest port facility is now re-opened and operating and will hopefully be able to quickly recover from the shutdown,” commented Matthew Shay, president and CEO of the National Retail Federation, one of several groups which had demanded government involvement to get the dispute resolved.
Shay, however, pointed out there could be more port disruptions for shippers to grapple with in the months to come:
“Our attention now shifts to the East and Gulf Coast ports, where federal mediators have been locked in prolonged discussions with labor and management for the past two months. We urge the parties to reach a final agreement before their contract extension ends at the end of December. Retailers, manufacturers and the rest of the business community cannot afford another shutdown. “Our economy cannot withstand another port disruption.”