POLITICS/BUSINESS: West Coast ports, continuing contract dispute: "Top official says West Coast ports 'on the brink of collapse'" ....
* Daily Breeze: "Top official says West Coast ports 'on the brink of collapse'" - From the DB:
West Coast ports are five to 10 days away from gridlock and a forced lockdown unless contract talks can be resolved with the longshore workers union, the head of the group representing employers at 29 West Coast ports said Wednesday.
Publicly discussing labor talks for the first time since negotiations began in May, Pacific Maritime Association CEO James McKenna told reporters in a conference call that the PMA made its latest offer to the International Longshore and Warehouse Union that includes raising pay by about 3 percent annually, maintaining employer paid health care and pushing the maximum pension benefit by 11.1 percent to $88,800 annually. He described the proposed five-year contract, which was presented Tuesday to the ILWU, as “generous” and “comprehensive.” Still, he said that both sides remain far apart on six issues, including wages, pensions and the arbitration process.
McKenna said that an agreement must be reached soon because West Coast ports are on “the brink of collapse” with ships parked along the West Coast waiting to be unloaded and production slowing to a crawl. A work stoppage could drain $2 billion a day from the U.S. economy, according to the National Retail Federation, National Association of Manufacturers and U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
Only 50 percent of cargo is being moved through the Pacific Northwest, while yards remained crowded with containers in Southern California. McKenna blamed some of that congestion on the ILWU, which he said refuses to dispatch crane operators. (The ILWU has consistently refuted this claim, saying PMA did not train enough operators for the jobs.) “The system can only take so much,” McKenna said. “At some point, this will collapse under its own weight.”
Seventeen container ships remained at anchor Wednesday at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, according to the Marine Exchange of Southern California.
The ILWU said this is the second time in recent memory that employers have threatened to shut down the ports when negotiations are approaching their final stages and added that the union hasn’t been on strike over a contract since 1971. Union officials said despite congestion — which they say is caused by employers — they will keep the ports open for business and keep cargo moving .......................