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Ports to stop unloading cargo for four days amid labor dispute

Shipping companies to stop unloading ships at West Coast ports on four of next five days amid labor dispute

Shipping companies said they will stop unloading ships at West Coast ports for four of the next five days because they don’t want to pay overtime to workers they allege have deliberately slowed operations.

The Pacific Maritime Assn., which represents shipping lines and terminal operators, said ship unloading will stop on Thursday, Saturday, Sunday and Monday, when dockworkers are entitled to overtime pay.

Thursday is Lincoln’s Birthday and Monday is Presidents Day.

Employers said workers will still move cargo containers from congested docks onto trucks and rail cars.

Employers and the International Longshore and Warehouse Union have been locked in bitter contract talks for nine months, a period marked by brutal congestion up and down the coast.

Last week, employers said the already congested ports could soon become inoperable, leading them to shut operations and stop paying dockworkers.

The union says the congestion stems from employer mismanagement of supply chains. The local union in Los Angeles and Long Beach denies employing slowdown tactics.

The union has said the two sides are close to a deal and that previous labor cuts were an attempt to gain leverage at the bargaining table.

An employer group spokesman said negotiations were scheduled to resume Thursday morning.

According to employers, one sticking point is a union demand that both sides have the ability to unilaterally remove local arbitrators at the end of a labor contract. Those arbitrators settle disputes on the docks, when a contract is in place.  Now, both sides must agree to remove an arbitrator.

Employers say if such a change is made, alleged union slowdown tactics would become constant, because the union could "fire judges who rule against them."

A union spokesman has called the employer’s arbitration statement “totally inaccurate.”

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