US West Coast port labor contract expires, stakes improve for negotiations

LOS ANGELES, July 1 (Reuters) – Unions and employers negotiating new employment contracts for more than 22,000 US West Coast port workers say high-stakes talks are being held by the industry. Watch closely and the White House will move on after the deal expires late. on Friday.

The deal covers 29 Pacific Coast ports stretching from California to Washington State, which handle nearly 40% of US imports. Any delays or disruptions to work could upset the nation’s already broken supply chains, trigger inflation and exacerbate pressure on a weakening economy. lowers President Joe Biden’s approval rating.

“While there will be no contract extension, cargo will continue to move and normal operations will continue at ports until an agreement is reached,” said the Maritime Association’s employers group. Pacific Ocean (PMA) and the International Long-distance and Logistics Alliance (ILWU) said in a joint statement.

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“Both sides understand the strategic importance of ports to the local, regional and U.S. economies, and note the need to finalize a new coast-wide contract as soon as possible. “, PMA and ILWU before the contract expires at 5 pm. PDT Friday (0000 GMT Saturday).

As the contract expires, so does the “no strike” clause, said Peter Tirschwell, vice president of maritime, commercial and supply chain at S&P Global Market Intelligence.

Hours before the expiration, more than 150 business groups begged Biden to push for a smooth and quick resolution.

Groups representing industries from agriculture and apparel to trucking and toys have asked the president to work with the PMA and ILWU to extend contracts, commit to good faith negotiations and avoid any activity that may cause additional disruption.

The labor face-off has been on Biden’s radar for months. He took the unusual step of meeting ILWU and the PMA in Los Angeles on June 10. His labor secretary conducts weekly checks with both sides, beginning negotiations in May. . read more

“We’ve never had a White House doing negotiations like we do now,” Tirschwell said.

Labor contract negotiations at the West Coast port finally broke down in 2015 after nine months. Shipbuilders were out of work for eight days, which increased trade flows and drained an estimated $8 billion from the Southern California economy alone. President Barack Obama sent his labor secretary to forge a deal.

Automating the movement of containers at ports, leading to fewer jobs, seems to be a key issue in the current negotiations. Neither side has identified the specific issue, but the PMA and ILWU have launched duel studies on the impact of automation and trading blunders in the media.

In a statement on June 14, the PMA and ILWU said they were not planning any outages or lockdowns that could worsen existing shipping logs. read more

However, wary shippers don’t stand any chance. They are moving cargo off the West Coast to avoid potential labor-related ship delays, especially at the nation’s busiest seaport complex at Los Angeles/Long Beach. That is driving up costs and contributing to backing up at ports in New York/New Jersey, Savannah and Houston. read more

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Reporting by Lisa Baertlein in Los Angeles Editing by Marguerita Choy, Alistair Bell and Leslie Adler

Our standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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