7/21/07

ILWU Local 63 port union's "final offer"

Negotiations between office workers and shipping companies at the nation's largest port complex were scheduled to resume Friday evening as the workers' negotiating team prepared to submit a counterproposal on a new labor contract, an officials said. The latest proposal by the clerical workers was to be their "last, best and final" offer, said Bill Orton, a spokesman for the International Longshore Warehouse Union's Office Clerical Unit, Local 63.

Steve Berry, lead negotiator for the shipping companies, said both sides were scheduled to meet sometime Friday evening. Berry said he was not aware of whether the proposal would be the union's final offer. Earlier in the week, the union said publicly it was preparing such an offer, but ultimately backed off from doing so.

The negotiating teams have continued to meet well past a strike deadline imposed earlier this week by the union. The deadline of 12:01 a.m. last Monday stoked concern over a possible shutdown at the ports.

The 15,000-member ILWU has indicated that longshoremen would honor picket lines if the clerical workers strike.

That would effectively shut down loading and unloading operations at the neighboring ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, which account for more than 40 percent of all the cargo container traffic coming into the U.S.

Berry said he's optimistic a work-stoppage won't occur.

"We're committed to get it done this weekend, if we can," he said.

The previous round of talks wrapped up around 1:30 a.m. Friday, said Berry, adding that progress was made on some issues.

Still, differences remain over wages, the size of workers' pension benefits, changes to their health plan and other issues, he said.

The talks began in May and continued after the current contract expired on June 30.

The clerks work at marine terminals and handle bookings for the export of cargo and other transport documents.

All told, Local 63 represents more than 900 full-time and temporary workers for 17 shipping companies and other cargo firms at the twin ports. The negotiations, however, only cover contracts for between 600 and 850 full- and part-time workers at 14 companies.

(theledger.com)

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