Port labor dispute shuts down operations

(KTVU/CNN) — The labor dispute causing shipping containers to stack-up at West Coast ports has taken a dramatic turn: The shipping companies and terminal operators are telling dock workers to stay home this weekend.

They have shut down operations until Monday.

By four p.m., word had spread to truck drivers at the port of Oakland, waiting to load or unload shipping containers before the weekend shutdown.

The Pacific Maritime Association, which represents 70 port terminal operators and cargo shipping companies, says nothing will be moved off or onto any ships this weekend at the 29 ports on the West Coast.

For thousands of truck drivers, no loads this weekend means no pay.

Labor negotiations between Pacific Maritime and the International Longshore Union have been dragging on for nine months. PMA is accusing the 20,000 dock workers of a deliberate work slow down.

PMA president James McKenna says they’ve offered dock workers $160,000 a year, but a spokesman for the union says the number is inflated, and that workers’ pay is closer to $36/hour, or $75,000 a year.

The union says the main sticking points are work rules, procedures and safety measures.

For customers caught in the middle, it means yet another blow to their bottom line.

“I think there needs to be intervention from the government because it’s destroying our economy,” said Bill Aboudi, president of AB Trucking.

A federal mediator has been at the table since last month. The West Coast port operations and contract negotiations are expected to resume on Monday.

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