Squabble escalates as docks jam up
By Karen Gullo
Bloomberg News Service
SAN FRANCISCO A dockworkers' union said West Coast ports clogged by truck traffic and too little space for cargo have caused congestion and delayed the unloading of containers piled up on docks in California and Oregon.
The International Longshore and Warehouse Union denied port operators' accusations that its employees were conducting work slowdowns in violation of a court order, and the union said the shippers' own mismanagement of dock operations caused productivity to drop.
Shipping companies, embroiled in a labor dispute with the workers, filed a complaint with the U.S. Justice Department last week accusing the union of staging work slowdowns in violation of a court order.
Containers full of auto parts, toys, food and other goods piled up after port operators locked out workers from Sept. 29 to Oct. 10.
The Pacific Maritime Association, which represents shippers and terminal operators, told the Justice Department that the number of containers moved per hour fell by as much as 34 percent in Oakland, Calif., and 14.5 percent in Los Angeles and that 194 ships were backed up at docks waiting to unload cargo.
Responding in a letter yesterday to the Justice Department, the ILWU said congestion is to blame.
"PMA, not the union, has violated the court's order through its refusal to work with the unions to jointly address the tremendous logistical problems caused by the lockout," the union said.
The Justice Department can recommend fines for violations of the court's order.
Steve Stallone, an ILWU spokesman, said container work is stymied by a shortage of trucks because port operators won't extend the hours that trucks are allowed into ports to pick up and drop off cargo.