Parties Break Silence on Contract Impasse
By DAVID GREENBERG
Although the bargaining units for West Coast dock workers and maritime management had made little progress in negotiating a new three-year labor contract as of late last week, a union official said there were no plans for an immediate walkout when the July 1 deadline passes.
A strike would have to be approved by union members through a mail-in ballot, and that process, taking up to six weeks, had not even begun by late last week, said Steve Stallone, communications manager for the International Longshoremen and Warehouse Union.
Both sides broke a self-imposed media blackout last week as they ramped up their rhetoric. The union said it was incensed by what it claims was a demand by the Pacific Maritime Association, the bargaining arm of the ship companies, for a three-year pay freeze, no pension hikes and a reduction of health benefits.
“They are practicing concessionary bargaining,” said Stallone. “They just want takeaways.”
The PMA strongly denied the charges, claiming the sides hadn’t even begun to discuss wages and pensions. As for health benefits, the PMA said it only wanted changes in the way the plan is designed and administered, which officials said would save $135 million in costs over the next three years.