PMA & ILWU Hurt Shippers with War of Attrition

 In ILWU Negotiations, PMA, shippers

A war of attrition:

That’s what a Journal of Commerce (JOC) article by Bill Mongelluzzo says most Pacific Maritime Association (PMA) employers prefer as a better option to a lockout of the International Longshore & Warehouse Union (ILWU) members at West Coast ports.

A war of attrition:

That’s what’s happening at the West Coast ports between the PMA and ILWU after more than eight months of fruitless contract negotiations.

A war of attrition:

That’s where enemies try to grind away at each other, reducing their opponents’ strength and resources. In theory, the side with the greatest resources wins and the other is forced to give in.

Generally, attrition warfare is avoided by military strategists. It tends to come at great costs and is not as effective as decisive victories.

But going on the ninth month of contract negotiations while West Coast ports suffer unbearable congestion during crucial shipping seasons, effectiveness does not seem to be the PMA and ILWU’s strong suit.

Unfortunately, in the war of attrition between the PMA and ILWU, it is not just the union and their employers that the PMA and ILWU are weakening.

Shippers who import and export goods for their businesses are suffering. The supply chain is being interrupted. The economy is being negatively impacted. All this and more happens (and not for the first time) because the PMA and ILWU have to go to war every time a new contract needs to be negotiated.

The approach from both the PMA and ILWU is wrong.

I’m not saying they’re using the wrong war strategy, that the two sides should make more decisive moves like lockouts or strikes.

Sadly, it seems as though the sides are building toward that already.

No, there hasn’t been a lockout, but last week the PMA stopped having crews of ILWU members load and unload ships at night. The ILWU is calling this a partial lockout.

No, there hasn’t been an ILWU strike, but there have been walk offs, alleged slowdowns, and Thursday will see ILWU marches to protest the shift cuts mentioned above. Let’s see how operational West Coast ports are during that.

While all this drama happens between the PMA and ILWU, shippers are stuck watching their imports and exports get delayed or diverting their cargo to different ports.

Again, the PMA and ILWU’s war approach is wrong. It is not the wrong war strategy; it’s that they should not be at war at all.

What business do you see thrive or even survive when the employers and employees are at war with each other?

Employees should work hard and do their jobs well to provide benefit for the business. Employers in turn should pay their employees equitably and treat them with fairness. The two parties should be in an alliance, not at war!

How can a business take care of its customers when it’s in the middle of an internal war?

West Coast ports are certainly failing to take proper care of their customers as cargo ships sit anchored, truckers can’t get in and out with shipments, and shippers are suffering huge delays to their imports and exports.

Because of the importance of the ports to so many businesses and the U.S. economy as a whole in the globalized world we live in, the PMA and ILWU can survive while they weaken each other and their customers in a war of attrition.

That doesn’t mean businesses that depend on the ports are not getting fed up. The JOC reports on letters being repeatedly sent by increasing numbers of associations of businesses tired of being caught up in the PMA and ILWU’s war:

The latest letter to the head of the Pacific Maritime Association and the International Longshore and Warehouse Union, issued on Friday, lists 175 associations that said their thousands of collective members “desperately need this negotiation to be concluded and operations returned to normal levels of through-put.”

“The growing number of associations represents the growing concern among the business community about the impact that the ongoing contract negotiations and congestion is having on all stakeholders who rely on the ports to move their commerce,” Jonathan Gold, vice president of supply chain and customs policy at the National Retail Federation, who has helped organize the letters. “More and more companies, both large and small, are feeling the impacts from the congestion at the ports. This is impacting their businesses, the jobs who rely on those businesses and their consumers, both here and abroad.”

It’s time to end this war, PMA and ILWU.

Tags: shippers, PMA

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