Operations at 29 west coast ports will continue past Monday’s regardless of whether terminal operators and the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) reach an agreement to extend their contract, spokesmen for both sides told media last week.
While the ILWU’s contract with the Pacific Maritime Association expires at midnight Monday, June 30, spokesmen for both parties have said they expect no disruptions as long as they remain in negotiations. One area of contention in the talks is who pays a new federal tax on high-end healthcare plans that take effect in 2018 under the Affordable Care Act. The cost of providing benefits to ILWU employees has soared from about $40,000 in 2002/03 to $93,200 in 2012/13, according to the PMA.
The contract covers 13,600 dock workers at 29 west coasts ports who handle an estimated 40 percent of the nation’s imports. A 5-day work stoppage at the ports could reduce GDP by $1.9 billion a day and that rate of loss would rise to $2.5 billion a day should work stoppages go on for 20 days, according to a study by the University of Maryland released Thursday by the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) and the National Retail Federation (NRF).
To mitigate those impacts, some importers have rerouted their deliveries to other ports in Mexico, Canada and the United States. Early last week, U.S. Customs and Border Protection issued an advisory reminding importers how to handle paperwork in the event they divert a ship or simply choose to anchor it offshore.
Retailers and manufacturers, who expect to import billions of dollars in back-to-school products from Asia in coming weeks, continued urging both sides to reach an agreement. Many ski and snowboard companies import their fall and winter goods in July so that they can ship them to specialty retailers as early as August.
“With the June 30th deadline date looming, SFIA is growing more concerned about the potential for a disruption in the flow of commerce through west coast ports and the adverse impact it will have on our members and the U.S. economy,” said Bill Sells, SFIA Vice President of Government and Public Affairs.