US Labor Secretary Turns Up the Heat on West Coast Contract Talks

The US Labor Secretary Tom Perez told the two sides negotiating a new contract for dockworkers at the US West Coast seaports that they need to reach an agreement by Friday, otherwise the talks would be moved to Washington.

Perez has been sent to California by the White House to help bring labor talks on a new contract between shipping companies and longshore workers to the right track.

The deadline was given on Thursday, and according to Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf, should it fail to be met, Perez will call the two sides  to continue talks in Washington, the Associated Press (AP) writes.

The talks, launched nine months ago, have been resumed with Perez’s arrival and are reported to had lasted late Thursday evening.

The Pacific Maritime Association (PMA) and the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) remain silent on the latest developments.

The ongoing contract dispute has had a horrendous impact on the productivity of the US West Coast ports, which have recorded significant drops in their monthly cargo volumes. The ports of Seattle and Tacoma, Long Beach and Oakland reported dwindling cargo volumes in January.

What is more, after a four-day shutdown at West Coast ports, Oakland marine terminal operations halted on Thursday as longshore workers took the day off for a union meeting.

“It has been nearly a week since President Obama dispatched Labor Secretary Perez to the West Coast to help settle the protracted contract dispute between the ILWU and PMA. While the Secretary has said the meetings have been productive, we have yet to see a final deal.

“We understand the Secretary has given the parties a deadline to reach an agreement. If a deal is not reached today, we support the decision to move the negotiations to Washington and we call upon the president to personally engage in the discussions until an agreement is reached, the National Retail Federation’s Jonathan Gold  said.

According to Gold, the nation’s retailers and supply chain stakeholders cannot afford another week of uncertainty at the Pacific ports, where dozens upon dozens of ships and thousands of containers are held out at sea.

“The ILWU and PMA need to reach a final agreement today,” he stressed.

World Maritime News Staff

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