Standoff Over – West Coast Dockworkers Approve Five-Year Pact

Ships gather off the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, California in this aerial photo taken February 6, 2015. REUTERS/Bob Riha Jr
Ships gather off the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, California in this aerial photo taken February 6, 2015. REUTERS/Bob Riha Jr

By James Nash

(Bloomberg) — West Coast dockworkers approved a five-year contract with shippers and port operators, formally ending a months-long stalemate that almost paralyzed cargo movement from November through February.

With 82 percent voting yes, members of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union ratified a contract with the Pacific Maritime Association, which represents shipping lines and terminal operators at the 29 ports from San Diego to Bellingham, Washington. The 72 employers represented by the maritime association approved the contract in a vote made public May 20.

The deal ends a year of negotiations that broke down in October over issues including arbitration of workplace agreements. By November, cargo was backing up at ports that were responsible for 43.5 percent of U.S. imports in 2013, and some companies were diverting to other ports or sending goods by air.

“The negotiations for this contract were some of the longest and most difficult in our recent history,” union President Robert McEllrath said Friday in a statement. “Membership unity and hard work by the negotiating committee made this fair outcome possible.”

The contract is retroactive to July 2014, when the previous six-year pact expired, and runs through June 2019. Approval means the West Coast gateways can focus on competing with smaller, more nimble seaports on the Gulf and East coasts and in Canada.

The contract includes a $1-per-hour raise retroactive to June 28, 2014, and annual increases through 2018 bringing the base salary for longshore workers to $42.18 an hour.

©2015 Bloomberg News