West Coast Labour Negotiations Intensify Over Port Automation Debate

coracle News

Negotiations for a new contract between West Coast dockworkers and the terminal operators began on May 10th but sources say little progress has been made. The dockworkers are represented by the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) and the terminal operators and ocean carriers represented by Pacific Maritime Association (PMA).

The main issue is over port automation, with terminal operators pushing for increased automation of cargo-handling equipment, and the dockworkers firmly against automation. A recently released PMA-commission study claims automation increases efficiency and increases jobs. The ILWU disagrees and claims automation results in hundreds of lost jobs, without an overall increase in productivity.

ILWU requested a temporary break from negotiations from May 20 to June 1. With the contract for 15,000 port workers in Washington, Oregon, and California set to expire on July 1, 2022, many shippers are making contingency plans.

1. West Coast longshore contract talks suspended until June 1, Journal of Commerce, May 23, 2022. Accessed May 30, 2022.
2. Port automation debate intensifying amid West Coast labor talks, May 26, 2022. Accessed May 30, 2022.