Longshore union: We’re not slowing down Port of Portland

Longshore union: We’re not slowing down Port of Portland
The Longshore and Warehouse Union said it is not working to slowdown work at the Port of Portland’s Terminal 6.

The International Longshore and Warehouse Union on Saturday issued a rebuke of a regional National Labor Relations Board ruling claiming it's been employing delay tactics to slow operations at the Port of Portland’s container terminal as part of an ongoing labor dispute.

The ILWU and the Pacific Maritime Association have filed a complaint in federal court and with the NLRB claiming ICTSI Oregon Inc., the company that operates Terminal 6 for the port, is failing to comply with labor pact, the Portland Business Journal reported.

On Friday, Ronald Hooks, director of the NLRB’s regional office in Seattle, said the ILWU made efforts to slow down activity at the terminal after Leal Sundet, the union’s coast committeeman, threatened to make ICTSI “pay the price” if it didn’t hire ILWU workers, according to the Journal of Commerce.

The ILWU Local 8 handles longshore work and other duties at Terminal 6, but in recent weeks has staked a jurisdictional claim on work maintaining refrigerated shipping containers. The work, which the Port of Portland says employs just two to four people per year, has been done by the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers since the early 1970s under a long-standing collective bargaining agreement with the port.

But since ICTSI took over terminal operations last year, the longshore union believes the work should now be governed by a six-year collective bargaining agreement it reached in 2008 with the Pacific Maritime Association covering all West Coast ports. ICTSI is a member of the Pacific Maritime Association, a collective bargaining group that represents terminal operators.

Though the port isn’t a party to the labor dispute, it filed a complaint with the NLRB claiming the longshore union’s actions have caused delays at T6.

The NLRB’s Hooks agreed. His ruling detailed several slowdown tactics, according to the Journal of Commerce, including simultaneous coffee breaks, slow driving of cranes, and parking a pickup truck to intentionally block access to refrigerated containers.

The ILWU, though, on Saturday said the NLRB ruling was one-sided, based only on ICTSI’s side of the story “that has not yet been tested by a judge of any kind.”

It also denied that it is engaged in an intentional work slowdown, saying Friday’s production at T6 was “well within the norm,” while placing the blame for any delays on the shoulders of ICTSI. Steamship lines are also members of the Pacific Maritime Association and have asked ICTSI to comply with the longshore union’s labor pact.

“ICTSI has refused their instructions,” the ILWU wrote. “If steamship companies leave Portland it is because of ICTSI, not the ILWU.”

The Journal of Commerce said the NLRB ruling could lead to a temporary restraining order this week against the ILWU. The union will be able to respond during a hearing August 14.