Thursday, October 11, 2012
Labor dispute delays Marine Highway dedication at Port of Stockton
A dispute between the longshoremen's union and terminal operator Ports America caused Stockton port officials to postpone this week's dedication of the new $30 million Marine Highway project.
"We have many questions related to labor issues that arose between the longshore union and the stevedoring company involved," said Port Director Richard Aschieris in a Stockton Record report. "They don't appear to be able to get those resolved before Thursday morning. And really, without working labor, there's no way - it's impossible - to start the service."
The port plans to introduce a new cargo service that involves containers being transported on barges between the ports of Oakland and Stockton, and ultimately Sacramento. Current container cargo is conveyed via trucks between Oakland and the Central Valley.
Representatives of Ports America, the stevedoring company, and Marc Cuevas, president of International Longshore and Warehouse Union Local 54 in Stockton, were unavailable for comment.
An ILWU union official, who wishes to remain anonymous, said the conflict involves the number of workers needed for the barge operation. He said Ports America wants to reduce the work force compared to other maritime ship operations in Stockton.
"They wanted to cut the manning in half. It was just getting ridiculous," he said. "We all want to see it work, but you have to be careful, because if the union gives in on this thing and if someone gets killed, then we're responsible."
The union is not trying to pad the payroll, he said. "Unnecessary manning is not good for anybody. You just want to make sure the operation is safe.
"We are starting a new service. We are starting literally from zero," Aschieris said. "It is my hope those remaining discussion points are all agreed upon in the near future. Only after that will we discuss rescheduling the (dedication) event."
The Marine Highway, funded by the U.S. Department of Transportation, was created to improve the area's freight system, boost foreign trade and reduce air pollution and traffic congestion by moving containers by barge instead of truck and generating jobs in the region.
Improvements at the Port of Stockton include the addition of two mobile harbor cranes at the cost of roughly $10 million; the conversion of two former timber barges to carry cargo containers; and the construction of a fenced container yard and a railroad extension to facilitate moving cargo between barge and rail.
The improvements will allow Stockton to handle the goods and packaged products typically packed into cargo containers. Previously, the port could handle only bulk cargo.
For more of the Stockton Record story: recordnet.com
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