Dockworkers with the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) have said the union will consider next month an earlier-than-expected vote on whether or not to extend their current contract with employers.
The ILWU, which primarily represents workers on the North American west coast, will call a meeting of delegates for in San Francisco on August 10-12 to discuss the pros and cons of voting this year on extending the contract, which is not due to expire until July 1, 2019.
ILWU’s 20,000 members primarily work in west coast ports and the most recent contract was signed only in February 2015.
It followed a protracted period of fractious relations and a bitter labour dispute that set back the west coast’s reputation for efficiency and reliability.
The spectre of that time is a main motivation for this idea, which came from the employers’ organization the Pacific Maritime Association, which represents shipping lines and terminal operators.
PMA wants to bring forward the new contract to strengthen the west coast’s position as a gateway to Asia and to cut off at the pass any recurrence of the nastiness of the strike.
It also wants to minimize or eliminate any disputes that could distract from the need to focus on stiffer competition from the expanded Panama Canal.