Sponsored by:

Comment, blog & share photos

Log in | Become a member
The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Friday, September 6, 2002

Dockworkers agree on benefits

 •  Official says hotel wages still issue

Advertiser Staff and News Services

Shipping lines and West Coast dockworkers tentatively have agreed to a new benefits package and are negotiating other contentious points of a new contract, both sides said yesterday.

The benefits agreement was reached Wednesday night, a day after rhetoric from shipping lines and the longshoremen's union made trouble on the waterfront sound imminent.

Spokesmen for both sides would not discuss details of the agreement.

"Nothing is finalized until the whole package is done, but the idea is that the issue is resolved," said Steve Stallone, spokesman for the International Longshore and Warehouse Union.

"I'd like to look at it as the glass half full and think that this is a breakthrough," said Joseph Miniace, president of the Pacific Maritime Association, which is negotiating for major shipping lines.

Yesterday, officials with the two main carriers of goods to Hawai'i said cargo continued to move smoothly through West Coast ports with no apparent planned slowdown by workers.

"It's business as usual," said Jeff Hull, spokesman for Matson Navigation Co.

One CSX Lines ship was delayed, a company official said today, but CSX Lines officials said they were not sure whether the problem was part of a slowdown effort.

The regularly scheduled Wednesday CSX Lines ship out of Oakland, Calif., was delayed five hours last night because none of the scheduled union gateworkers showed up and had to be replaced with casual labor, said Brian Taylor, vice president and general manager for the carrier.

Because the replacement labor is unfamiliar with the main terminal gate operations, deliveries and loading were slowed, Taylor said.

"It definitely impacted the gate in Oakland," Taylor said. "But I can't tell if that has anything to do with the situation going on now or not."

Yesterday Stallone reiterated that because the union was not renewing the contract on a short-term basis, it legally could take a job action such as a slowdown.

Still, the two sides were back at the table yesterday, tackling perhaps the thorniest issue: how to modernize 29 major West Coast ports without costing jobs for the 10,500-member union.

Representatives from both sides remarked on the improved tone of the talks, which began in May and broke down briefly during the Labor Day weekend.

Negotiations on a new three-year contract come as retailers scrambled to stock their shelves for the holiday shopping season.

By the association's estimates, even a short disruption in the flow of goods through Pacific ports would have a multibillion-dollar effect on the U.S. economy.

The ILWU Local 142 in Hawai'i has agreed to extend its contract until the West Coast dispute is resolved. But with those talks bogged down on issues such as health benefits, outsourcing and technology upgrades, most businesses are hanging onto their supplies.