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Focus: Global Supply Chain and Logistics

Our Weekly Feature Article on Topics Related to Global Supply Chain & Logistics

From SCDigest's On-Target e-Magazine

- Feb. 10, 2015 -


Global Supply Chain News: Someone is Lying at West Coast Ports with Regards to Union Productivity

PMA Says Work Slowdown is Clear, ILWU Says there is No Such Thing; Who Deserves the Pinocchios?


SCDigest Editorial Staff


Amid the fog that has surrounded the severe congestion that has plagued West Coast ports for months, leading to huge delays in getting containers out of the terminals and a huge backlog of ships waiting to unload, only one thing is clear: one side is lying.

The union agrees with the Pacific Maritime Association (PMA), which represents West Coast ports, that productivity has taken a big hit. But while the PMA says a huge factor has been an intentional work slowdown by the dock workers, either through moving at a slow pace or not sending enough workers to do the job, the union say that's bogus, and that instead it is issues such as bad chassis management and the time it takes to unload megaships that are at the root of the problem.

SCDigest Says:


The PMA disclosed its last and final contract offer was for a 3% increase in wages for Longshore, while upping the pension pay a union worker will get a retirement to a whopping $88,000 per year.

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The PMA doesn't dispute those factors are involved, but says the work slowdown has contributed strongly to the delays. The union says there is no work slowdown.

The PMA certainly tried to make a point over the weekend, when it created a temporary lock out of dock workers at 29 west coast ports, saying it simply wasn't worth paying the Longshoreman overtime rates on Saturday and Sunday for such little productivity.

The ports re-opened normally Monday, however, avoiding a full scale supply chain disaster- though unloaded ships are sitting out in the ocean at levels never seen before, as many as 40 by some counts - a huge number.

"We don't see the economic sense in paying time and a half, paying more for workers who are doing less, and really putting us on the edge," said PMA spokesman Steve Getzug.

The ILWU denies its members are working at the slow pace alleged by the PMA.

"Those problems have been created by mismanagement of the terminals," said Bobby Olvera Jr., president of ILWU Local 13, representing longshoremen. He said the Pacific Maritime Association is intentionally asking for only half the normal labor to move cargo and then publicly blaming the union for the slowdown. "We had over 1,000 members checked in to work last night," he said earlier this week, "and the employer ordered 200 jobs."

Tony Scioscia, a former PMA board member who now has a shipping consulting business, disagrees, telling CNBC that management asks for a full contingent of dockworkers, but the union is usually sending about 50% of the labor requested.

In mid-January, the PMA released statistics indicating that the union has reduced by about 67% the number of skilled equipment operators being dispatched each day over the past two months at LA- Long Beach, as shown in the graphic from the PMA below.


PMA Presents Data it Says Prove ILWU Engaged in Major Work Slowdown



Source: Pacific Maritime Association


(Global Supply Chain Article Continued Below)



While those numbers seem hard to argue with, shortly thereafter the ILWU made a press announcement in which it claimed that the PMA had admitted during the contract negotiations that the delays had little to do with a slowdown in dock work - a claim the PMA disputes.

PMA Offers Final Contract Terms

Last Wednesday, the PMA disclosed its last and final contract offer was for a 3% increase in wages for Longshore, while upping the pension pay a union worker will get a retirement to a whopping $88,000 per year.

The PMA announcement also said that that the new offer meets the ILWU's two largest demands, the "maintenance of their Cadillac health benefits - which feature no worker premiums, no co-pays and no deductibles for in-network benefits" as well as authority over maintaining and repairing truck chassis. These were two of the most contentious issues in the talks.

But the PMS also said that if a contract is not reached within 5 days, it might make the drastic moved of locking out dock workers to force a resolution. It seems this weekend's moves were meant to show the union it was serious about that threat.

Things are likely to come to a head one way of the other this week.

So who you think is lying about worker productivity and staffing? Let us know your thoughts at the Feedback button (email) or section (web form) below.


Recent Feedback

I used to think that ILWU were lazy, overpaid workers.  I am a middle class non-union worker.  I live in southern California which is in the top two highest-cost of living rate in the nation.  I met some people that are longshoreman. Some are "casuals" and they make $200.00 for an entire day of lashing for an 8 hour day.  From 3 to 8-10 YEARS LATER, they can be elevated to have health insurance.  PMA is starving out people who are eager to work.   They represent BILLION dollar shipping companies who want to rob the ENTIRE middle class. They have money to hire PR firms and marketing companies to fool the "simple" middle class.  PMA is the enemy trying to get the farmers, commerce, production network to turn on itself. I dont care if you are union or non union, these people PMA, are non profits that don't pay our taxes- they mess up our entire economy- please don't fall for it.

Not Provided
tutor saliba
Feb, 13 2015

I think the truth lies somewhere in between with a strong bias to the PMA data set.  It is PMA member ships sitting out in the harbor.  A ship at anchor is only gathering cost.  I also think the PMA is trying to provoke a strike.  At the same time the ILWU is trying to provoke a lockout.  That way each party can blame the other for the Taft Hartley act being invoked.  Does the ILWU think that any company can allow the union employees unilaterly fire an arbitrator? 

John Reeder
Director Global Supply Chain
TransAct Technologies
Feb, 18 2015