A nine-month long labour dispute in 2014 saw congestion at US West Coast ports reach "breaking point"

A nine-month long labour dispute in 2014 saw congestion at US West Coast ports reach "breaking point"

More than 110 US-based industry groups are again urging West Coast port stakeholders to start negotiations on a new labour contract for dockworkers in order to avoid the disruption seen last year. 

The groups, which include the American Apparel & Footwear Association (AAFA) and the Footwear Distributors & Retailers of America (FDRA), are calling on the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) and the Pacific Maritime Association (PMA) to begin early discussions on either a contract extension or a new contract to "ensure stability and predictability" at West Coast ports. 

The current contract expires on 30 June 2019, and starting negotiations early will help avoid a repeat of the negative economic impact of disruptions and slowdowns that occurred during the last negotiations, the industry groups believe. 

"As we have previously stated, we believe a new model for future negotiations needs to be developed, one which stresses early and continuous dialogue," the letter explains. "This should include a pledge by both parties to ensure there are no disruptions to cargo movement during negotiations. Maintaining the arbitration mechanisms in the existing contract for the duration of the negotiations, even if the contract expires before a final agreement is reached, is critical to that process." 

The industry groups acknowledged consideration by the ILWU and the PMA of an extension of the current contract, but add: "We fully believe that agreeing early to a contract extension or a new long-term contract will provide the stability and predictability that is needed for global competitiveness that will benefit all stakeholders (labour, terminal operators, cargo owners, etc) who rely on West Coast ports."

A nine-month long labour dispute that began in 2014 saw congestion at US West Coast ports reach "breaking point". Slow-downs meant apparel and footwear companies missed deadlines for holiday and spring deliveries, which resulted in significant cargo costs and millions of dollars in lost sales. And many were forced to implement contingency plans such as airfreight and re-routing to other, sometimes non-US ports.

The industry groups had originally called for early negotiations in March. 

Calls for new US West Coast ports contract talks