Solution to West Coast port dispute with in-put from Whitehouse

The West Coast ports labour dispute seems to have achieved a sudden solution. Press reports and statements from the various sides indicate that they have solved their disagreements over pay and other issues, although they are not saying how they have done this.

A joint statement from the Pacific Maritime Association, which represents terminal operators, and the International Longshore and Warehouse Union, was released on June 14th. It announced “a tentative agreement on a new six-year contract covering workers at all 29 West Coast ports”. However, it also said that “the parties will not be releasing details of the agreement at this time” and that “the agreement is subject to ratification by both parties.”

Possibly the key to understanding the abrupt disappearance to the problem was the statement that “the deal was reached with assistance from Acting U.S. Secretary of Labor Julie Su”.

Joe Biden, the American President, issued a statement about the deal which commented: “As I have always said, collective bargaining works, and I congratulate both parties at the ports for reaching an agreement” adding that he congratulated “the port workers, who have served heroically through the pandemic and the countless challenges it brought, and will finally get the pay, benefits, and quality of life they deserve.”

One might be tempted to suggest that the solution to what was becoming a difficult and protracted problem was delivered as the result of political pressure, especially on the International Longshore and Warehouse Union. ‘Acting Labor Secretary’ Julie Su appears to have been sent to California to communicate that Joe Biden needed a solution to, in his words, “assure that our supply chains remain strong for America’s businesses, farmers, and working families.”

Bearing in-mind the increasing temperature of the dispute at the West Coast terminals, the turn-around is remarkable. It is hard not to think that the politicians had a considerable hand in the solution. The question that does remain is whether the deal agreed will deliver the sort of long-term productivity increases that ports on the West Coast need if they are to answer both the demands of their customers and the competition from the East Coast.

Source: Ti Insights

Author: Thomas Cullen

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