Contract talks resumed today between management and the union representing striking clerical workers, whose four-day work stoppage has virtually shut down the Port of Los Angeles and has curtailed activity at the adjacent Port of Long Beach. The two ports comprise the nation's largest port complex.
No progress was reported as of press time, though both sides expressed relief that talks had resumed.
As of mid-day Friday, seven ships had been diverted from the Port of Los Angeles, the nation's busiest port, to other locations, according to port spokesman Phillip Sanfield. Ten ships already berthed at the port had not been serviced, and six containerships were waiting offshore to enter the port, he said.
The 800-member clerical local of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) struck Tuesday in protest over management's alleged plans to outsource dozens of their jobs. Dockworkers have honored the strikers' picket lines at seven of eight terminals at the Port of Los Angeles and an additional three of the six terminals at Long Beach.
The unit has been working without a contract since the last agreement expired in June 2010. Talks aimed at reaching a new agreement broke off last month. Management, which includes 14 steamship lines and 14 terminal operators, has said that all clerical jobs would be guaranteed for the life of the next contract, and charged that the clerical workers' latest proposal would further enrich a group of employees who are already the nation's highest-paid clerical staff.
LITTLE DISRUPTION EXPECTED
The strike was called after the peak holiday shipping season at the ports and a week to 10 days before retailers would be bringing in more merchandise to prepare for the last big push before Christmas Day.
In a research note issued Nov. 30, investment firm Wolfe Trahan & Co. said it doesn't expect much fallout as a result of the strike. As long as the strike doesn't spread to other West Coast ports, vessels could be diverted to other facilities up the coast, the firm said. The firms also said it expects that if the walkout lasts into next week, President Obama will invoke the Taft-Hartley labor law that would force the ports to reopen and the strikers back to work.
Truckload carriers may benefit once the ports reopen, because shippers will use trucks rather than intermodal service to make up for shipment delays during the strike, Wolfe Trahan said.
Airfreight may get a boost from an increase in shipments of items such as auto parts that are needed for everyday U.S. production. However, with most holiday merchandise already in the country and any freight still in Asia unlikely to reach U.S. shores in time for the holiday, there should be minimal seasonal disruption, the firm said.