ILWU: Jobs win a first step to solving port issues
PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) -- An end to a jobs conflict between two unions has not created newfound harmony on the Portland waterfront.
The International Longshore & Warehouse Union, a day after winning its battle for disputed work at the Port of Portland, blasted the company that operates the container terminal and cautioned that the settlement may not be enough to retain the port's most important container carrier.
ICTSI Oregon responded that it was not a party to the agreement and the ILWU only got its way because of illegal slowdown tactics.
Gov. John Kitzhaber announced Thursday that the job of maintaining refrigerated shipping containers would go to the ILWU instead of the union electricians who had been performing the task for four decades. The electricians conceded the jobs - with some perks in return - because Hanjin Shipping has threatened to leave Portland due to increased terminal charges and reduced productivity.
The South Korean shipping line is responsible for 78 percent of the container volume at the port's Terminal 6. Many Northwest businesses - from farmers to Fred Meyer - use the terminal and their costs will soar if Hanjin skips Portland and cargo must be trucked to or from Puget Sound.
ILWU Coast Committeeman Leal Sundet said the union is pleased to have won the work, but Hanjin Shipping won't continue its Portland service unless it gets a fair terminal-use agreement with ICTSI Oregon. The last deal expired at the end of 2012.
"In order to normalize things at Terminal 6, it's incumbent on ICTSI to improve labor relations and negotiate reasonably with Hanjin," Sundet said in a statement.
ICTSI Oregon is a subsidiary of International Container Terminal Services Inc., a major global ports operator based in the Philippines. A 25-year lease with the Port of Portland, signed in 2010, represented ICTSI's first venture in the United States, and management quickly clashed with American longshoremen.
The ILWU statement described the operator's labor-management model as "authoritarian and intimidation-based," and said worker morale is at an all-time low.
Elvis Ganda, the CEO of ICTSI Oregon, criticized the union in a statement Friday afternoon, saying ICTSI Oregon was not involved in negotiating the dispute and was not a party to the agreement.
Ganda blamed Longshore workers for Hanjin's planned decision to bypass Portland, saying they intentionally reduced productivity to pressure management into giving them jobs traditionally held by union electricians.
"What is unparalleled are the ILWU's efforts to drive Hanjin and other ICTSI customers away from Terminal 6 and harm the economy of this region just so the ILWU can grab one or two jobs," Ganda said.
He also criticized the ILWU's response to a victory that "appears to be the direct result of coercive and illegal conduct."
"Does it take any responsibility for its actions and pledge to restore productivity?" Ganda asked. "No, instead it takes potshots at ICTSI."
Ganda said ICTSI continues to try to sign Hanjin to a long-term contract at "competitive rates." However, he said it must set rates that avoid the money-losing results obtained by the Port of Portland in the last year it ran the terminal.
Hanjin officials did not return phone calls seeking comment. The shipping line started its service to Portland two decades ago, but it has not been an uninterrupted relationship.
In March 1996, Hanjin shifted its weekly service away from Portland because the company was worried its growing ships would not be able to navigate the Columbia River channel. The company returned in October 1997.
Hanjin stopped calling on Portland for economic reasons in December 2001, only to return eight months later. The change of heart was credited to a rebounding economy and demonstrated demand from shippers, brokers and freight forwarders.