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Mar. 03, 2014

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34 THE JOURNAL OF COMMERCE MARCH 3.2014 TRANS-PACIFIC MARITIME SPECIAL REPORT STORM FRONT THE PAST YEAR has been tumultuous for the maritime industry, with power- ful vessel-sharing alliances deploying mega-ships to West Coast ports, ter- minal operators consolidating their facilities, carriers exiting the chassis business and, on the national scene, implementation of t he A f fordable Health Care Act. All of these events will have an impact on contract negotiations this summer between the International Longshore and Warehouse Union and the Pacific Maritime Association. Talks will begin in early to mid-May, accord- ing to PMA President Jim McKenna. The current six-year contract covering West Coast ports expires on July 1. The 2014 negotiations will be the culmination of a decade of upheaval in the maritime industry, and the contract that emerges will reflect the changes that have affected waterfront employ- ers and labor on the West Coast. During the 1980s and 1990s, life was good for the ILWU and for their employ- ers. A shift of manufacturing to Asia, accompanied by the spread of container ization, brought unbelievable prosper- ity to carriers in the trans-Pacific and the longshoremen who worked on the docks. Freight rates in the trans-Pacific were strong, and carriers, more than anything, sought stability and reliabil- ity on the docks. The labor contracts that were negotiated during that period of prosperit y made the ILW U the highest-compensated work force in blue- collar America. Shipping lines in return enjoyed more than two decades without a coastwide strike. The good times couldn't last forever. The wasteful practices, unsustainable work rules and failure to adapt to the realities of computerization and automa- tion finally caught up with West Coast employers and the ILWU. As the 2002 contract negotiations approached, then-PMA President Joe Miniace warned cargo interests to prepare for what he was sure would be the most difficult contract negotiations since 1971, the last time West Coast ports experienced a coastwide strike. Miniace was referring to employer demands for a free flow of information. That is, computers would allow docu- mentation moving to the terminals and within the terminal operating systems to flow unimpeded, without a require- ment for human intervention by ILWU marine clerks. To the ILWU, the message was clear: Marine clerk jobs would be lost, and the potential for employers to outsource jobs Terminal consolidation, new alliances, mega-ships and chassis changes add up to potentially difficult ILWU talks By Bill Mongelluzzo

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