Workers from the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) have voted to ratify a tentative agreement with the Pacific Maritime Association (PMA) over a five-year-long labour contract.
ILWU members from 29 West Coast ports voted 82% in favour of approving the five-year deal, compared to the 75% that voted in the previous contract. The new agreement will expire on 1 July 2019.
Robert McEllrath, ILWU international president, admitted that “the negotiations for this contract were some of the longest and most difficult in our recent history.”
Failing contract negotiations earlier this year had seen US West Coast port operations grind to a halt, contributing to severe backlogs of up to 30 ships at the region’s premier ports during the height of the crisis.
A number of members of the West Coast port hierarchy have responded favourably to the new contract agreement.
Gene Seroka, executive director at the Port of Los Angeles, said: “The approval of this labour contract allows us to move full speed ahead sharpening our competitive edge.”
“In the last 90 days, labour and management throughout the San Pedro Bay supply chain have made excellent progress eliminating the backlog of ships, getting services back on schedule, and improving cargo flow in and out of terminals,” he added.
Port of Oakland executive director Chris Lytle said: “Now we can get down to the important work: improving service to shippers so that we remain their primary U.S. trade gateway.”
Doug Drummond, president of the Long Beach board of harbour commissioners, said: “This new pact is terrific for management and labour, and proves that by working together, we can build a partnership that will continue to help to improve this economy and provide jobs all across the United States.”
The new agreement will provide approximately 20,000 “good-paying” jobs to the 29 West Coast port communities, whilst limiting the outsourcing of jobs and maintaining health benefits alongside improved wages, pensions and job safety protections.