Another shutdown at Port of Oakland

Another shutdown at Port of Oakland
By Thomas Lee on March 11, 2015 1:02 PM

Despite a tentative labor agreement to end a dispute that brought chaos to West Coast ports, the international container terminal at the Port of Oakland once again shut down Wednesday, a port official confirmed to The Chronicle.

Photo By SFC/Michael Macor
Cargo ships filled with containers are lined up along the docks at the Port of Oakland after a pact with the Longshoreman’s Union has been reached, as seen in Oakland, Calif. on Sat. Feb. 21, 2015. (SFC/Michael Macor)
The official reason behind the closure was a “staffing dispute” between workers and port operators, said Port of Oakland communications director Mike Zampa. He did not offer further details.

The closure impacted the staging and gate areas at the facility, where truck drivers drop off and pick up cargo from container ships.

Last month, under pressure from U.S. Labor Secretary Tom Perez, negotiators from the International Longshore and Warehouse Union and the Pacific Maritime Association in San Francisco reached a tentative deal on a new five year contract.

The nine-month dispute between the union and the association snarled traffic at major ports like Long Beach, Seattle, San Diego and Oakland due to similar “staffing disputes,” prompting business leaders and politicians to complain to the White House and Congress.

In response, President Obama dispatched Perez to help the two sides reach an agreement and end an embarrassing spat that threatened to slow America’s economic recovery.

Despite the settlement, the union offered no firm timetable for its members to ratify the contract. Union delegates will meet March 30 to April 3 to review the proposal and then decide whether or not recommend workers approve it.

Even if workers sign off on the contract, analysts say ports will still face a tough time clearing the log jam.

“Delays and uncertainty will continue to plague the ports in the short term and when the current deal expires,” according to market research firm IBISWorld. “Goods will continue to sit on docks or ships for prolonged periods. Shippers with time-sensitive cargo, including perishable items, will incur the highest costs from persistent holdups.”