Port of Portland's Wyatt:
by Erik Siemers
Port of Portland Executive Director Bill Wyatt on Monday told the Business Journal that his recent visits to shipping companies in China and Taipei left him with the impression that they're preparing for an eventual labor lockout at West Coast ports. Wyatt himself shares that outlook.
"I wouldn't be surprised if we see a lockout in the next 10 days," he said.
The International Longshore and Warehouse Union and the Pacific Maritime Association, the organization that represents West Coast terminal operators, since July 1 have been renegotiating terms of an expired labor contract.
Wyatt's 10-day lockout forecast comes, in part, from the expectations gleaned from shipping companies, whom he said "they know they're going to suffer immeasurably financially." But it's also from what he viewed as a negative reaction by the longshore union to a Feb. 4 contract offer from the PMA he describes as generous.
The offer, described by the PMA as its "all-in" offer to break the stalemate, would increase ILWU worker wages -- already at an average of $147,000 per year -- by 3 percent annually.
With talks at a standstill, the PMA halted the loading and unloading of vessels over the weekend. While operations resumed Monday at most West Coast ports, the Port of Portland's Terminal 6 -- managed and operated by PMA member ICTSI Oregon Inc. -- remained shut down.
Wyatt was effusive about the value of the Port of Portland and its container business, particularly because of the region's shipper-friendly balance between imports and exports. But the size of the Portland market, and the port's proximity inland from the coast, have always made it a tougher sell to shipping companies.
"There is a business case to be made about coming into this market, but it's not a slam dunk," Wyatt said. "These labor challenges are not helping it at all."
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