Eugene Seroka, executive director, Port of Los Angeles reported “minimal disruption” to Port of Los Angeles operations as a result of recent labor actions by the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU).
Seroka provided background to the recent increase in hostilities between the ILWU and the PMA: “For background and context talks temporarily stalled on June 1st between the ILWU and the PMA (Pacific Maritime Association), mainly over wages that led to spot shortages of workers on our docks and sporadic delays for about a week at some terminals here in LA.
Yet, as I noted for the last six days, the Port of Los Angeles has had minimal disruption.
Meanwhile, after a several day pause, both parties continue to talk at the table on the remaining points in an ongoing effort to hammer out a deal.”
Seroka noted one promising development: Acting U.S. Labor Secretary Julie Su had been dispatched by the Biden Administration to meet with PMA and ILWU negotiators in San Francisco: “Acting Secretary of Labor Julie Su has been in communication with both parties since she was the Labor Secretary here in the State of California that continued when she was appointed and confirmed as Deputy Secretary of U.S. Labor and … was put into the Acting position by President Biden back in March. Her visit to San Francisco is further evidence that she continues to work with both parties in an effort to get a deal done. Julie and her staff have been working around the clock and this is one of her highest priorities.”
Seroka described the extent of disruptions: “Again, as we've said publicly … there are slower moving containers than we'd like to see, and there are longer lines on occasion for trucks. We've even had terminals not open their truck gates due to a shortage of labor or other business decisions. So, no, it's not all perfect. And yes, the trucker (is) … first and last mile ambassador of this Port complex (and) is being hurt by any type of slowdown. We've got to avoid that going forward, if at all possible.”
Seroka noted: “There have been claims, counterclaims and daily concern as the contract talks between the International Longshore and Warehouse Union and the Pacific Maritime Association continue to push forward at the bargaining table in San Francisco.
Here at the Port of Los Angeles. I think it's fair to say that while the situation remains fluid, we've largely been able to function close to normal since June One. The Port of LA terminals are open, trucks are moving, and vessels by and large have been on schedule.”
Seroka said that data projections via the Port’s ‘Port Optimizer’ indicate cargo is moving at near normal levels.
“While our ‘Port Optimizer’ and other data suggests that the overall impact on LA operations has been minimal, we fully recognize that some truckers and customers have experienced delays and frustrations in recent weeks.”
He noted two trends: Cargo waiting “to leave by trucks. It's just a little more than three days. That is down to pre pandemic levels.”
Cargo waiting “to load on the on-dock rail is about four days (which) is solid.”
In response to a question generated by a PMA press release alleging the ILWU has engaged in major disruptions of terminal operations, Seroka responded:
“I'm not going to validate one view against another, but again, from my vantage point, this is what impasse in bargaining looks like. Both sides are probably disappointed, upset, frustrated, any range of emotions when you get to this point and the rank and file have been on the job every day. They want to get paid. They want this contract to come to conclusion. Over 13 months of bargaining on this agreement, the longest time I can remember, we have only had a handful of bad days by and large, given the circumstances, everyone around this supply chain from importers, exporters to service providers and our longshore labor have done the best they possibly can and will continue to do so.”
Seroka said he would be speaking at the Agriculture Transportation Coalition (AGTC) annual meeting in Tacoma, Washington, later in the week and would be assuring exporters that as soon as a labor contract is ratified the Port will endeavor to win exporter cargo back to the Port of Los Angeles.
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