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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Thursday, July 25, 2002

West Coast dockworkers reject contract offer

By Justin Pritchard
Associated Press

SAN FRANCISCO — An assembly of rank-and-file longshoremen unanimously rejected a contract proposal yesterday from the shipping lines that employ them at West Coast ports.

International Longshore and Warehouse Union members rallied in San Francisco, after they rejected a contract proposal. Contract negotiators are scheduled to meet next week.

Associated Press

Soon after, the delegates marched from their hotel to a rally outside the offices of the Pacific Maritime Association, whose member shipping lines handled about $260 billion worth of goods last year at 29 major Pacific ports.

The association presented the proposal Sunday and negotiators for the International Longshore and Warehouse Union spent the last few days briefing about 80 delegates on its provisions. Negotiators had discounted the association's proposal almost immediately and the delegates' rejection was no surprise.

The delegates will spend the rest of the week composing a counter proposal, union spokesman Steve Stallone said. The two sides are not scheduled to meet until next week.

Delegates objected to the association's proposals on health care and how to preserve union jobs as shipping lines introduce new technology to make the docks more efficient — but also some jobs obsolete.

Negotiations to renew the contract, which officially expired July 1, have become increasingly testy, though both sides have hewn to promises to keep the docks working smoothly.

A spokesman for the association could not immediately be reached for comment.

Joseph Miniace, the association's chief executive, has said his proposal was a fair and reasonable solution to the impasse.

He said his proposal would give longshoremen a 17 percent increase in compensation, wages, health benefits and pensions, over five years. He said the union had asked for a 57 percent increase in those costs over three years. Overall, he said, the cost of the contract would rise about $200 million to $1.4 billion.

The union, which represents 10,500 longshoremen, has said it can accept new technology to make the waterfront more efficient — and can even accept job cuts in the short term — but wants to claim any new jobs created by new technology.

With Pacific Rim trade projected to double in the next decade, shipping lines complain West Coast ports won't be able to keep up unless they catch up with their more automated Asian peers.