ILBWU and port of Long Beach

Shipping companies at ports of Long Beach, Los Angeles stop crews from unloading at night

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LOS ANGELES >> A labor dispute between terminal operators at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach and their workers took another turn Tuesday, with operators being ordered to completely stop loading and unloading ships at night, starting Tuesday night.

The Pacific Maritime Association, which represents shipping companies operating West Coast port terminals, said their members will not be assigning any vessel gangs or crews to move cargo off of and onto ships at night, to focus on reducing an ever-expanding pile of cargo containers they contend is the result of an intentional work slowdown tactic by the dockworkers union.

Crane operators who would normally work with the vessel gangs will instead be moving containers out of the shipping yards and onto trucks, which will take the goods to their destination, PMA officials said.

“It’s designed to get containers that have been stranded moving,” PMA spokesman Steve Getzug said.

Daytime vessel gangs, and some night workers on the yard and at the gates, would not be affected by PMA’s order, he added.

PMA has been locked in contentious negotiations with the International Brotherhood of Longshore and Warehouse Union, Local 13, the representatives of which have denied initiating a work slowdown tactic.

The union is only allowing trained and certified crane operators to work at the terminals, according to Adan Ortega, a spokesman for the ILWU.

Ortega said terminal operators are not offering enough training for workers and have become “over-reliant on untrained and uncertified crane operators.”

Getzug dismissed the claim that only certified crane operators should be working on the yards, and contends the dockworkers union is covering for its oft-used negotiating tactic of slowing down work at the ports.

Getzug said they have been responding to the so-called work slowdown by reducing work crews, as there is no point in filling up shipping yards that are not being emptied.

On New Year’s Eve, PMA ordered that the three vessel gangs being assigned to each ship be reduced to just one gang, and Tuesday all vessel gangs were eliminated.

ILWU representatives said ships are normally assigned six to eight vessel crews.

Ortega said the PMA’s decision to relieve even more workers Tuesday night “defies logic” and will only lead to the “mountain of containers growing higher and higher.”

Ortega said they are telling the dockworkers who typically work at night that they can try to show up in the morning to see if they can get work during the day shifts, but it would mean “everyone shares the pain.”

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