The ILWU, which represents some 20,000 dockworkers, said Friday delegates met in San Francisco to discuss the possibility of extending the current contract between members and the Pacific Maritime Association, the group that negotiates labor agreements on behalf of shippers and terminal operators.
The current contract is set to expire in July 2019 with delegates voting in favor of putting the extension to a vote by members.
“One of the ILWU’s guiding principles is that the rank-and-file members will make the best decision when they have the facts and an opportunity to decide for themselves, and that’s how this will be decided,” said ILWU International president Robert McEllrath in a statement.
While McEllrath called the proposed extension “non-precedent-setting,” early talks on the contract are seen as key among stakeholders to avoid any potential disruption to operations at the West Coast’s 29 ports. Retailers, manufacturers and other industries’ businesses were severely impacted by the last round of contract negotiations, which were not worked out and ratified prior to the existing one’s expiration. The ongoing negotiations caused a major disruption to the region’s ports from late 2014 into early 2015. Industry groups, such as the National Retail Federation and California Retailers Association, urged the groups last year to begin early talks in a move that would ensure stability of cargo movement at the region’s ports.
The ILWU and PMA met in November to discuss what they called in a joint statement “the concept of a contract extension” but were largely mum on details beyond that other than to say talks would continue at another date.
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