A majority of US West Coast longshore workers at 29 ports in California, Oregon and Washington have agreed to a three-year extension of their collective bargaining agreement with the Pacific Maritime Association (PMA).
With voting by workers complete, early returns indicate the contract extension will pass by 67%. The official results will be announced on August 4, according to the International Longshore & Warehouse Union (ILWU).
If ratified as expected, the extended ILWU-PMA agreement, which was scheduled to expire on July 1, 2019, will now be valid until July 1, 2022.
Members of ILWU voted on the employer’s contract extension proposal after prolonged contract disputes between PMA and ILWU which caused drops in the ports’ freight volumes. The new contract is expected to raise wages, maintain health benefits and increase pensions.
“Earlier this year, PMA proposed a contract extension with the intent of creating long-term certainty for West Coast ports and all stakeholders. Early voting returns show strong ILWU support for our proposal, which would ensure labor stability through 2022. This historic agreement will be great news for the maritime industry, as well as our customers, workers, port communities, and the US economy,” James McKenna, PMA President, commented.
Approval of the three-year extension two years early would be in sharp contrast to 2014 when negotiations didn’t begin until May of that year and the contact was allowed to lapse in July. Workers stayed on the job without a contract, but contentious talks led to slowdowns, cargo backups and other problems until an agreement was finally reached in February 2015.
Separately, the National Retail Federation (NRF) welcomed reports that ILWU and PMA appear close to extending their existing contract.
“This agreement between the ILWU and PMA will provide the stability and predictability that NRF’s members and other supply chain stakeholders need to move their cargo efficiently through our ports,” Jonathan Gold, NRF Vice President for Supply Chain and Customs Policy, said.
“Nobody wants to see a repeat of the problems that were experienced in 2014-2015, and this remarkable sign of good faith on the part of both labor and management ensures that such a situation will be avoided,” Gold added.