ILWU/PMA Sign Tentative Coastwide Agreement while Canada Bottlenecks

On February 20, 2015, negotiators for the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) and the Pacific Maritime Association (PMA) announced a tentative five-year coastwide contract agreement.  Details of the contract are not yet available since membership of both groups must vote to ratify the agreement; a process that could take several weeks.  In the meantime, the ports of Los Angeles, Long Beach, Oakland, Seattle, and Tacoma are expected to return to full operations.

After nine months of contract negotiations, which began in July of 2014, conditions at terminals up and down the West Coast have grown increasingly congested.  Projections estimate it may take many weeks, if not several months, to clear the backlog and get cargo flowing normally.

If importers and exporters have not had enough supply chain issues, they now face new problems from the north.  Canadian National Railway (CN) announced on Friday, February 20th, that it intends to lock out 4,800 workers represented by Unifor at 11 p.m. on Monday, February 23rd, unless the union agrees to binding arbitration to settle contract differences.  Much of the intermodal cargo that discharges in Vancouver and Prince Rupert bound for the U.S. moves via CN Rail and any work stoppage would likely cause additional delays.

A CN statement announced the company’s hopes to reach a negotiated settlement or persuade the union into binding arbitration.  Both parties resumed contract talks over the weekend. The Canadian government has confirmed that they are in communication with both parties but have made no further commitments on legislative action.

We will continue to closely monitor the situation and advise you of any important updates.