PMA Says Slowdown is Deliberate

Thursday, October 24, 2002
The Pacific Maritime Association (PMA), an organization that represents 80 shipping lines, has presented documents to the Justice Department suggesting that West Coast dockers have deliberately slowed operations since the West Coast ports reopened under a Federal Court order on October 9. According to the PMA, “the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) has engaged in a concerted, systematic work slowdown impacting productivity at every major port. These debilitating actions by the Union come despite a Court requirement to resume work at a normal and reasonable rate of speed.” The Pacific Maritime Association has documented the declines in productivity and has forwarded information to the United States Department of Justice for review. Productivity reports compiled by PMA and its member companies demonstrate that during the first week back to work under the Taft-Hartley injunction, container move productivity fell 34% in Oakland, 29% in Portland, 27% in Seattle, 19% in Tacoma, and 9% in Los Angeles/Long Beach. These productivity figures are based on gross container moves per hour -- a direct, objective measure -- in comparison to historical data correlated to specific vessels and terminals. “The ILWU is playing games with the U.S. economy, and inflicting economic pain and hardship on scores of companies and their employees,” said PMA President and CEO Joe Miniace. “Given the extreme urgency of keeping the goods moving through our ports, I cannot fathom why the Union would deliberately take these slowdown actions.” As indicated by the experience at the Port of Tacoma, the Union has the capacity to move cargo at or near normal rates when it determined to do so. On the first shift back after the Court entered the Temporary Restraining Order (the night shift on Wednesday, October 9), Tacoma had gross container move productivity of 92.6%. On the next shift, Wednesday morning October 10, Tacoma experienced even higher productivity, at 95.1% of normal levels. That night, the ILWU held a membership meeting in Tacoma. The days following the meeting, productivity fell to 81.7% on Thursday, October 11, to 55.0% for Friday, October 12, and 52.8% on Saturday, October 13. According to the PMA, the ILWU has repeatedly offered several excuses for the drop in productivity, including an assertion of congestion, safety issues, and the need for more labor. Those claims, taken separately or together, do not account for the sudden and major drop in work levels at four major ports, and are discredited by the fact productivity levels at certain terminals have ranged from 90 percent to 100 percent of normal. Not only are container moves down substantially, but numerous other indicators demonstrate a substantial failure to return to work at a normal and reasonable rate. The following examples are drawn from the week of October 9 to 16, though early indications show that similar activities are continuing through the present.
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