Union, terminal operator blame each other for Port of Portland woes


Port labor strife proving to have wide-reaching implications.

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BY JACOB PALMER | OB DIGITAL NEWS EDITOR

Finger pointing — between the labor union and terminal operators — has intensified in the wake of the Port of Portland’s largest container carrier announcement it will take its business elsewhere.

Hanjin told its customers Friday that it will ship through Seattle instead of directly to Portland, putting the port in a precarious position.

Wednesday, the union cited mismanagement as the reason why Hanjin is taking its business elsewhere, OregonLive.com reported:

“Hanjin’s stated departure from Portland rests solely on ICTSI’s inherent refusal and failure to nurture customer relations,” said ILWU spokeswoman Jennifer Sargent. “ICTSI’s only interest is to leverage its regional monopoly for maximum short term and unit company profit. Its customers are secondary.”

Relations between the union and ICTSI Oregon, who took over operations from the Port of Portland in 2010, have steadily deteriorated. They have been to arbitration several times and local union members stopped work as recently as Friday and Monday to demonstrate a grievance against ICTSI Oregon for sending them home from work three days in 2014.

ICTSI issued a statement Wednesday, placing the blame on the union — the  Portland Business Journal reported:

In 2012, a high-ranking ILWU representative promised to send Terminal 6 carriers, including Hanjin, “packing” if ICTSI Oregon did not assign work to ILWU members that was controlled by the Port of Portland and historically performed by another union.

Since that time, the ILWU has embarked on a long-standing and continuing campaign of work stoppages, slowdowns and safety gimmicks calculated to drive away the terminal’s customers and put ICTSI Oregon out of business.

Portland mayor Charlie Hales reiterated his confidence that a “fair and equitable” solution could be reached, possibly wooing Hanjin back to Portland.

From the PBJ:

“Hundreds of jobs and millions of dollars in wages hang in the balance,” Hales said in a statement issued Wednesday afternoon.

“It is my hope that both sides quickly come to a fair and equitable solution to the dispute, and that Hanjin reverses its decision to withdraw from Terminal 6 … A solution to the Terminal 6 dispute, reached quickly and equitably, could spur the shipper to alter its decision.”

The Albany Democrat-Herald reported on mid-Willamette Valley farmers bemoaning recent developments.

“Hanjin had a ship at the port that was held up for two weeks,” [Boshart Trucking owner Stan] Boshart said. “These ships are made to float, not be docked for weeks at a time.”

Boshart said mid-valley farmers took waste that for decades had been burned in the fields and turned it into a useful product that benefits Asian livestock owners, the shipping companies and the U.S. trade balance.

A manufacturer in Stayton plans to furlough 180 employees for two weeks — the Statesman Journal reports:

“My materials have been severely impacted, especially since January,” [Marty Olson of Mastercraft Furniture] Olson said. “I’ve had numerous containers diverted to other ports. I had a container diverted to the East Coast, and it was lost for three weeks.”

SEDCOR, or the Strategic Economic Development Corp., is a private nonprofit membership group whose mission is to enhance and diversify the economy of the Willamette Valley. The organization holds monthly luncheons to discuss issues affecting area businesses. Olson, who regularly sells materials to China and Europe — “IKEA is one of my largest customers” — said the severe disruption in his shipping has serious consequences.

As a response to unmoving negotiations, port operators are planning another round of shutdowns, according to a report from OregonLive.com. West Coast ports will be shut down Thursday, and from Saturday through Monday.

 

Longshore workers say suspensions of work are unhelpful and that productivity shortfalls aren’t their fault.

 

“This is an effort by the employers to put economic pressure on our members and to gain leverage in contract talks,” said Robert McEllrath, preident of the ILWU, in a statement Wednesday afternoon. “The union is standing by ready to negotiate, as we have been for the past several days.”

 

 

 




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