ICTSI pleas for union ‘punishment’ to stop
International Container Terminals Inc (ICTSI) Oregon is calling for union workers to put an end to their three-year ‘punishment’, which it says is vital to getting the Port of Portland back on track.
With a new five-year contract agreement being reached by the Pacific Maritime Association (PMA) and the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU), West Coast ports should experience improved productivity from ILWU workers. But, ICTSI Oregon says the case in Portland is much more complicated and severe.
Prior to signing a 25-year lease agreement with ICTSI Oregon to run Terminal 6 in 2010, the Port of Portland only recorded a profit twice in 38 years, lost US$17 million in 2010.
ICTSI’s lease with the port enables it to attract new business and improve workplace standards in line with other American ports, but ICTSI says it also imposes certain strict limits. Specifically, ICTSI Oregon is required to abide by the jurisdictional work arrangements the port has with various unions represented at Terminal 6.
The problem at Portland began back in 2012 when ILWU leaders “tried to grab work involving the handling of refrigerated containers from Port electricians represented by the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers,” which had performed the work since 1974.
ICTSI says despite this and its legal commitment to the lease with the port, the ILWU “demanded” the work be assigned to its members.
“The ILWU threatened to chase our customers, including Hanjin, from Portland and to shut us down. The union made good on its threats and began work stoppages, slowdowns, safety gimmicks, and other conduct deliberately intended to hurt ICTSI Oregon,” ICTSI said.
After the labour agreement with the PMA expired in July 2014, productivity from the ILWU dropped even lower. As a result, container carrier Hanjin, which represented 78% of Terminal 6’s revenue last year, has ended its Portland operations.
“Replacing lost business due to Hanjin’s recent departure and ensuring the long-term viability of Terminal 6 will require more than a new contract,” ICTSI added. “It will require the ILWU to end an almost three-year campaign to undermine ICTSI Oregon’s success at Terminal 6.”
In response to ICTSI's recent statement, the ILWU told Port Strategy: "The statements that ICTSI made to the media about work stoppages were, as usual, self-serving and inaccurate. ICTSI arbitrarily fired entire crews of workers this week and then complained that no one was working. The fact is, ICTSI is failing to thrive in the United States because of its own managerial shortcomings, and desperately trying to blame others for its own mistakes."
But, at the heart of the current dispute is the fact that ICTSI Oregon says it honoured its lease agreement with the Port of Portland. “We acted as a good faith business partner, and the ILWU has been punishing us, the port and local businesses we serve ever since.”
Despite recent problems, ICTSI Oregon says it’s determined to make Terminal 6 a “world-class terminal” by attracting new business, but says the ILWU must help restore the confidence of Hanjin and other potential carriers.
But, the ILWU told PS it's ICTSI's "poor decisions and rogue attitude" that have "chased away two major customers in Portland and alienated their peers in the industry".
"If ICTSI spent as much time improving operations as they spend complaining to the media, our region would have a more productive container terminal by now," the union concluded.
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