Subscriber login Close [x]
remember me
You are not logged in.

Wine shipments face delays as California port dispute escalates

Published:  12 February, 2015

Wine shipments in and out of California face further delays as the labour dispute between port workers and their employers steps up a gear with vessel operations suspended over the upcoming long weekend.

The Pacific Maritime Association has said it will suspend vessel operations over Presidents' Day weekend at ports along the West Coast in the US as it refuses to pay enhanced holiday rates to employees who are not working at full capacity.

The dispute, which has been going on since last summer, is between the International Longshore and Warehouse Union and PMA over renegotiated contracts. The gridlock has impacted the wine trade, although many importers and exporters are finding alternative routes and making contingency plans in order to minimise delays. However this has impacted on costs. 

Last week PMA spokesman Wade Gates said: "It makes no sense to pay extra for less work, especially if there is no end in sight."

The vessel operations suspension kicks off today, which is a US holiday, and runs until Monday February 16, 2015.

"PMA members have concluded that they will not conduct vessel operations on those days paying full shifts of ILWU workers such high rates for severely diminished productivity while the backlog of cargo at West Coast ports grows," a PMA read.

Premium weekend and holiday pay rates are at least 50% higher for basic longshore wage rates. The PMA is refusing to pay the premium rates saying that with the recent productivity decline over the last four months by ILWU workers the current backlog of cargo coming in has resulted.

A drop in productivity happened in October coinciding with the number of available crane operatorsPacific Maritime Association

The PMA estimates that the number of shifts per qualified crane operators has dropped from 110 per day to under 35 shift per day in late October, which has resulted in containers available for discharge sitting on the docks. The shipping companies put in orders for the number of crane operators needed and the ILWU filled only a third of the shift orders that came through.

Los Angeles and Long Beach Absent Crane Operators began in OctoberLos Angeles and Long Beach Absent Crane Operators began in OctoberSource: Pacific Maritime Assocation update Feb 3, 2015Los Angeles and Long Beach absent crane operators began in October 2014 and so began a slowdown in port activity and number of available crane operators.

Gates said: "Last week the PMA made a comprehensive contract offer designed to bring these talks to a conclusion. The ILWU responded with demands they knew we could not meet, and continued slowdowns that will bring West Coast ports to gridlock. What they're doing amounts to a strike with pay, and we will reduce the extent to which we pay premium rates for such a strike."

The decrease in productivity began at the end of October due to the PMA and ILWU unable to arrive at a satisfactory contract renegotiation. Currently ILWU members have been working without a contract since June of last year.

The PMA also suspended weekend vessel loading and unloading operations last weekend in light of the ongoing labour dispute and subsequent slowdowns.

Los Angeles and Long Beach absent crane operators began in October 2014 and so began a slowdown in port activity and number of available crane operators.Pacific Maritime Assocation update Feb 3, 2015