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Ship Owners Seek Court Aid

LOS ANGELES — The Pacific Maritime Association said Wednesday it has presented data about continuing, significant union work slowdowns to the U.S. Justice Department, and is seeking court relief.<br><br>The association alleges that productivity...

LOS ANGELES — The Pacific Maritime Association said Wednesday it has presented data about continuing, significant union work slowdowns to the U.S. Justice Department, and is seeking court relief.

The association alleges that productivity is down between 9 and 34 percent, since West Coast ports reopened Oct. 9 under the Taft-Hartley Act.

For the union to face penalties, the Justice Department would have to bring the matter back to Federal Judge William Alsup, who could impose steep fines or jail time for union leaders if he finds it in violation of its 1999 labor contract, according to sources familiar with the situation.

The labor contract, which expired July 1, remains in effect under the 80-day cooling-off period.

An International Longshore and Warehouse Union spokesman did not return a call by press time Wednesday.

The two sides are slated to meet today and Friday in San Francisco with Peter Hurtgen, director of the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service. These will be the first negotiating sessions since talks disintegrated Sept. 29.

Based on gross container moves, productivity is off 9 percent in the Los Angeles-Long Beach port complex, 27 percent in Seattle and 34 percent in Oakland, Calif., according to the PMA.

The shipping association also charges the union with failing to staff key positions in work gangs and being slow to respond to labor requests.

“We have detailed accounting of the ways in which the union has conducted its slowdown,” a PMA spokesman said. “This is far greater than a blip due to crowded terminals, but is unfortunately the work of a concerted action.”

There were 224 ships all along the West Coast waiting to be unloaded when the ports reopened. As of Wednesday, there were 194 ships still awaiting service, according to the Marine Exchange, which coordinates port traffic with the Coast Guard.

This story first appeared in the October 24, 2002 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.