Labor negotiations which began in May 14, 2014 between the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) and the Pacific Maritime Association (PMA) ended successfully this week, as the ILWU membership voted to ratify a 5-year agreement with the PMA. Following a vote in favor by ILWU delegates in early April, rank-and-file members of the union voted overwhelmingly to ratify the new agreement. The five-year contract, which is retroactive to July 1, 2014, will expire on July 1, 2019 and covers 20,000 dockworkers at 29 ports. The ILWU headquarters in San Francisco said 82 percent of the rank-and-file votes were cast in favor of the contract. The contract ratification closes a year of tumultuous relations between the ILWU and the PMA, which saw West Coast ports overwhelmed by congestion because of dockworker slowdowns and a response by employers that included cutbacks on costly night and weekend work.
This contract includes increases in pay, pensions, re-affirms employer-paid medical benefits, including the Cadillac tax in the Affordable Health Care Act that will take effect in 2018, and preserves ILWU jurisdiction over chassis inspections, maintenance and repair. The one major change found in the agreement has to do with the arbitration system, which could result in significant changes in how day-to-day health, safety and work-rule disputes are handled at the local ports. Instead of a single arbitrator for the four main port ranges, the process will move to a three-person local arbitration panel, with one member nominated by the ILWU, one by the PMA and one by a neutral arbitrator. The neutral arbitrator on each local panel must be a member of either the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service or the American Arbitration Association, but cannot be a lawyer.
With the agreement in place, West Coast employers and the union are now working together to catch up on lost productivity, tackle congestion, and earn back lost cargo that was diverted to other U.S. ports during the labor disputes.