By Steven Dubois Associated Press
PORTLAND, Ore. — Pacific Northwest grain terminal companies have given the longshore union extra time to accept what they say is their best and final offer.
The owners of a half-dozen terminals along the Columbia River and on Puget Sound extended the deadline to Dec. 8. The longshoremen had been asked to accept the deal by midnight Wednesday, but that deadline came and went without a lockout.
No additional talks have been scheduled between the union and the Pacific Northwest Grain Handlers Association, the consortium of grain-shipping companies that operate facilities in Portland, Seattle, Tacoma and Vancouver, Wash.
The Grain Handlers Association, in a statement Thursday, reiterated its need for workplace rules that are similar to what longshoremen agreed to at a competing grain terminal in Longview, Wash. The owners say the rules will ensure that workers provide “a full day’s work for a full day’s pay” and do not engage in illegal work stoppages.
In exchange for rules that are more advantageous for them, the companies said they offered an increased wage-and-benefit package that will pay longshoremen who work at their grain elevators more money than those who work in Longview. The companies put the package at $64.75 an hour. They did not break down how much of that is wage and how much is benefits.
Also Thursday, the owners criticized the International Longshore and Warehouse Union for comments about the offer it considers misleading and inflammatory, specifically that the terms of the contract would lessen safety standards.
“Safety has been and always will be a top priority,” the companies said.
Union spokeswoman Jennifer Sargent said that the statement from the Grain Handlers Association contained factual errors. She did not elaborate.
“Clearly, these multinational corporations are more interested in misrepresenting local workers than in negotiating a fair contract with them,” she said. “These grain monopolies are major recipients of American taxpayer subsidies and need to care about our regional economy and not just their own astronomical profits.”
More than a quarter of all U.S. grain exports move through Pacific Northwest grain terminals, so the delay is a reprieve for farmers shipping their corn, soybeans and wheat to customers in Asia.