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L.A. Dock Conflict Steps Up in Intensity

LOS ANGELES — After a tense summer and little progress in labor contract negotiations, the situation dockside has turned surly.<br><br>In statements released Wednesday, the Pacific Maritime Association accused the International Longshore and...

LOS ANGELES — After a tense summer and little progress in labor contract negotiations, the situation dockside has turned surly.

In statements released Wednesday, the Pacific Maritime Association accused the International Longshore and Warehouse Union of staging intermittent work slowdowns, starting Monday, at the Port of Los Angeles.

Negotiations to renew the three-year labor contract, which began May 13, are still stuck on issues of technology and job creation, according to sources familiar with the situation.

PMA president and chief executive Joseph Miniace, who has said repeatedly during negotiations that the PMA will consider lockouts in case of a slowdown, reiterated a zero-tolerance stance.

“If the union does not immediately return to work at full productivity levels, PMA will be forced to take defensive options to counter the ILWU work slowdown,” he said. “At this point, all options are open.”

Ed DeNike, chief operating officer of Stevedoring Services of America, confirmed his firm has experienced “significant” delays starting Monday and continuing through Wednesday.

“We’re not getting the people we’re ordering out of the union hall to come out to their jobs,” DeNike said, referring to port staffing practice of requesting manpower through union offices. “We’ve had goods sitting on ships.”

ILWU spokesman Steve Stallone countered that delays are because of huge demand. “It is not a work slowdown. It’s a shortage of manning,” he said. “PMA shot itself in the foot. They ran around scaring everybody about slowdowns, so members shipped all their stuff right away. Now there’s not enough people to unload it.”

Robert Krieger, president of freight forwarder Norman Krieger Inc., lent support to the union’s claim that workers are overwhelmed. “We’ve noticed processing is slower, but our perception is that it’s sheer volume,” he said.

Concern that talks were deteriorating, Krieger postulated, had caused a surge in importing.

The ILWU is planning to protest outside the Biltmore Hotel today where Secretary of Labor Elaine Chao is scheduled to speak.