Three companies operating grain export terminals in the Pacific Northwest said members of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union rejected their last, best and final contract offer.
United Grain, Columbia Grain and Louis Dreyfus said they were "disappointed" with the vote against the offer, which they said was "fair and reasonable."
In light of the union’s rejection of the offer, the employers are reviewing their options. Regardless of the outcome, they remain committed to operating.
The companies said in a statement that "bargaining has not been about wages and benefits. Under terms of the rejected proposal, the hourly wage for registered members will increase to a range of $34 to $36 with an additional $30 an hour for benefits on top of wages, for a total wage and benefit package of $64 to $66 per hour. This hourly benefit package would continue to increase significantly over the period of the contract offered by the employers.
"The issue has been workplace rules. ILWU has chosen to give two major competitors (EGT and Kalama Export) a better deal when it comes to certain working conditions," they added.
"The employers entered bargaining with the goal of leveling the playing field with these competitors. After 34 days of meetings, including 11 days of meetings facilitated by federal mediators, the parties remain millions of dollars apart in terms of the labor cost savings ILWU has provided to EGT and KEC through their agreements," the three companies said.
The three companies said the ILWU has given their competitors the ability to use fewer employees to load ships; flexibility to use elevator employees to assist in ship-loading; greater management discretion in hiring and staffing decisions; ability to have non-bargaining unit personnel perform certain work and/or to perform work when bargaining unit employees are unavailable or refuse to work; ability to eliminate the practice of paying employees a half-hour’s wages for working as little as six minutes; to hold the union to its agreement not to engage in work stoppages during the term of the agreement, greater flexibility to work up to 12 hours in a shift if needed; and to have greater flexibility in start/stop times to meet production needs while still providing plenty of notice to employees.
"Throughout negotiations, the employers have communicated to ILWU that they are willing to accept either of the contracts between the ILWU and EGT or Kalama Export. Because the union has flatly refused to extend to the employers the same benefits it already has agreed to with their competitors, the employers’ last, best and final offer is the best attempt to eliminate those competitive disparities," the companies said.
They added "while the ILWU has made a major issue about workplace safety in its media statements. The employers remain committed to the safety of their workforce, and categorically deny that any of these three options will compromise workplace safety."
Columbia Grain's terminal is in Portland, Ore., while United Grain's terminal is located in Vancouver, Wash., and Louis Dreyfus's two terminals are in Portland and Seattle. - Chris Dupin