Productivity remains at 30% or below normal at some ports

Productivity remains at 30% or below normal at some ports

The National Retail Federation has urged the two parties involved in negotiating a new labour contract for west coast dockworkers to remain at the bargaining table, amid a slowdown in talks and shipments ahead of the all important holiday season.

According to the Pacific Maritime Association (PMA), the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) has decided to curtail 'big table' negotiations with a 12-day break to the end of Thanksgiving. The ILWU is also refusing to agree to a temporary contract extension - similar to one it signed over the summer, the PMA added.

NRF president and CEO Matthew Shay said he was "greatly disappointed" by the news, adding there has been "very little progress" over the last six months.

Reiterating his call for President Barack Obama to get the parties back to the negotiating table, Shay said: "It's time the parties accept a federal mediator to help them bridge the gaps and arrive at a new contract. Without a contract, stakeholders cannot work on addressing the ongoing congestion issues at the ports.

"We urge the two sides to end the brinkmanship and return to the talks immediately. The nation's retailers and our vendors, suppliers and customers are counting on the two parties to act responsibly."

The slowdown in worker activity has seen productivity remain at 30% or below normal at some ports as a result of what the PMA describes as "orchestrated ILWU maneuvers".

"We have made it abundantly clear that we believe these negotiations are of the utmost importance and should continue at full strength until the Thanksgiving holiday," said PMA spokesperson Wade Gates. "We are disappointed the Union is not showing the same urgency to resolve the issues between us."

"The best holiday gift we can give the nation is a contract agreement," he added. "And we can't reach agreement unless both parties are at the table."

According to a report published by the NRF and the National Association of Manufacturers earlier this year, a west coast shutdown would cost the economy around US$2bn a day.

Click on the following links for further insight on the disruption at west coast ports: US retailers to face logistics issues into 2015, and Port problems lead to US apparel supply bottleneck.