United Grain Corp. (UGC) said Wednesday it has locked out members of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) from its grain export terminal in the Port of Vancouver, Wash., following alleged efforts to sabotage equipment there.
“UGC’s decision was based on evidence in an investigator’s report received Monday, February 25 that shows two significant attempts to sabotage export terminal equipment were carried out by a member of ILWU Local 4’s Labor Relations Committee who is also part of its bargaining team,” the company alleged, releasing copies of a letter from its attorney to the ILWU as well as a report from an investigator.
“Safe operation of our facilities must be our first priority. Deliberate attempts by an ILWU leader to damage equipment, disrupt operations and put coworkers at risk cannot be tolerated,” said Gary Schuld, president and chief executive officer of United Grain, in a statement.
“After reviewing clear evidence in the independent investigator’s report, we notified the union yesterday that we were terminating the individual responsible. Further assessing the situation we concluded that we cannot risk further vandalism that might disrupt safety or impede operations. Therefore this morning we notified the union of our intention to operate the terminal without ILWU labor,” Schuld added. “Law enforcement officials have been contacted. The investigator’s complete report and evidence is being turned over to law enforcement authorities to consider criminal prosecution."
A letter from UGC’s attorney said alleged incidents involved “deliberate introduction of a metal pipe approximately two feet long into UGC's conveyor system as well as the intential introduction of a sand an water mixture into the railcar progressor ad the UGC facility on the same date.”
"United Grain and its Japanese owners at Mitsui have failed to negotiate in good faith with the men and women of the ILWU for months, and instead chose to aggressively prepare for a lockout, spending enormous resources on an out-of-state security firm," said the ILWU Coast Longshore Division, in an emailed statement.
"Mitsui-United Grain has fabricated a story as an excuse to do what they’ve wanted to do all along, which is to lock workers out instead of reach a fair agreement with them. It’s no coincidence that Mitsui-United Grain has chosen to throw out unfounded charges by an unnamed 'investigator' just days after the union membership ratified an agreement with Mistui-United Grain’s American competitors at Temco in Portland, Kalama and Tacoma," the union said.
Meanwhile, ILWU Locals 23, 21, 19, 8 and 4 and U.S.-based grain company TEMCO, LLC today jointly announced that they have ratified a five-year interim collective bargaining agreement covering three TEMCO grain export facilities in Portland, Tacoma, and Kalama. The agreement will be signed and implemented on March 9, and is subject to modification given the details of a final agreement between the ILWU and the Pacific Northwest Grain Elevator Operators.
TEMCO is a joint venture between Cargill, Inc and CHS Inc., which are U.S. companies based in Minnesota.
Neither side provided details of the contract, but both said the agreement was “workable” for both. - Chris Dupin