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Economy

Work Slows Down At West Coast Ports As Labor Talks Drag On

Cargo containers for Dole Fresh Fruit Co., a Port of San Diego tenant, are lifted off a ship at the 10th Avenue Marine Terminal, June 1, 2014.
Michael Schuerman
Cargo containers for Dole Fresh Fruit Co., a Port of San Diego tenant, are lifted off a ship at the 10th Avenue Marine Terminal, June 1, 2014.

The ports of San Diego and 28 other West Coast ports will again be partially shut down for four of the next five days as a labor dispute continues between port employers and the dockworkers' union, the Pacific Maritime Association announced Wednesday.

According to the association, which represents port employers, vessel loading and unloading activities at the ports will be suspended Thursday — which is Lincoln's birthday — and on Saturday, Sunday and Monday — which is Presidents Day — so companies will not be forced to pay holiday and weekend salaries to union workers, whom they have accused of slowing port operations during the contract dispute.

The International Longshore and Warehouse Union has repeatedly denied taking part in a coordinated effort to slow port operations. Union officials have said employees are not given enough training opportunities so there are not enough qualified employees who can come to work.

Congestion at the ports in recent months has also been attributed by the union to industry-wide changes that include larger ships dropping off and picking up more cargo at the ports.

According to the Pacific Maritime Association, longshore workers and clerks would be paid between $54 and $75 an hour on the holiday and weekend days, while foremen would receive $77 to $92 an hour.

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

Although vessel operations will be halted, yard, gate and rail operations will continue at the ports, according to the association.

Vessel operations were also halted last weekend. The action by the Pacific Maritime Association affects all West Coast ports. The International Longshore and Warehouse Union blasted last weekend's halt of vessel activity as "crazy and irresponsible."

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