EVERETT — The labor dispute that clogged major West Coast ports barely affected the Port of Everett, which moves much less cargo than the state’s two biggest seaports — Tacoma and Seattle.
The major issue here was “working with ships delayed” at other West Coast ports, said David Madill, marine terminal director for the Port of Everett.
Cargo ships, especially container vessels, are tightly scheduled, so a delay in one port quickly ripples through the system, he said. “They were behind even before they would get here.”
The contract dispute between the International Longshoremen’s Warehouse Union (ILWU) and the shippers and terminal owners — represented by the Pacific Maritime Association (PMA) — has caused cargo to pile up on the docks of major ports including Long Beach, Los Angeles and Oakland in California, and Tacoma and Seattle.
The Port of Everett, which specializes in large and odd-sized cargo called break bulk, didn’t feel the effects, though. From November through January, the port handled far more containers and cargo tonnage than it had 12 months prior. It moved 56 percent more containers and 63 percent more tonnage, according to data from Port of Everett reports.
February’s numbers are not available yet, but will probably show an increase over last year, Madill said.
In Everett in 2013, the port’s 44 registered longshoremen earned a total of more than $4.5 million in wages. That is average wages of $103,831, based on data from the PMA.
The two sides began discussing a new contract in May. The previous agreement, negotiated in 2008, expired at the beginning of July. Work didn’t stop on the docks, but by November, shippers and terminal owners started accusing the longshoremen of a work slowdown.
Earlier this month employers cut night, weekend and holiday shifts, saying workers were conducting a strike without pay. Longshoremen denied the accusations, and said the owners were responsible for any dockside congestion.
Only one Everett ship, the Westwood Cascade, was affected by the shift cuts. The container ship sat in Everett three extra days over Presidents Day weekend, according to the port.
A federal mediator stepped in in early February, but couldn’t make any progress. Then Pres. Barack Obama sent U.S. Labor Secretary Thomas Perez to intercede. Perez threatened to drag leaders on both sides back to Washington, D.C. to finish talks there.
A tentative deal for a five-year contract was announced Friday. The ILWU’s roughly 13,600 registered members must still approve it. No date for the vote has been announced.
The talks had been stalled on resolving workplace grievances. Under the compromise, a panel will hear future grievances, rather than a single arbitrator.
The agreement also retains workers’ nearly no-cost health coverage, an $11,000 increase in the maximum pension benefit, to $91,000, and a $1-per-hour wage increase over each of the five years, according to employers’ “last, best and final” offer, which was outlined in a recent letter from PMA President James McKenna.
The Associated Press contributed to this report. Dan Catchpole: 425-339-3454; firstname.lastname@example.org; Twitter: @dcatchpole.