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  • 17 Sep 2014

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Kitzhaber resolves part of Port of Portland labor dispute

Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber has brokered a partial deal to end the labor dispute at the shipping terminals at the Port of Portland.

The dispute has threatened to unravel the current container shipping arrangement at the Port, potentially harming Oregon's economy.

On Thursday the Governor's Office said that the longstanding work assignment conflict over “refrigerated container” work at Terminal 6 has been resolved. According to the office, work to plug and unplug refrigerated ships at Portland’s container Terminal will now be assigned to workers represented by the International Longshore and Warehouse Union.

The Port of Portland and International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 48 agreed to terms to transition this work from representation by IBEW 48 to workers represented by ILWU. ILWU workers will perform the work of plugging and unplugging “reefer” ships as soon as the Port is able to contract with an ILWU employer for the work. This represents a key step forward at Terminal 6, the office says.

“With the resolution of this key dispute, we can keep Terminal 6 a competitive, productive, and internationally attractive container terminal,” Kitzhaber said in a prepared statement. “This agreement should provide assurance to container companies and businesses around Oregon that the conflict over this work will no longer be a factor in terminal operations.”

As part of the agreement, the Port of Portland ensures that no IBEW 48 members will lose work as a result, and that they will be assigned other Port-related duties. In addition, the Port of Portland ensures future Port-owned facilities will be serviced by IBEW 48, and the Port and IBEW 48 will enter into a new, innovative apprenticeship arrangement to address the Port’s long-term needs for skilled electricians.

The Port currently employs approximately 60 electricians who are IBEW 48 members, many of whom are approaching retirement age.

The Port of Portland will also provide weekly reports to the Governor’s Office on Terminal 6 productivity. Kitzhaber and his staff will review these reports on a weekly basis and intervene as necessary to maintain and improve Terminal 6 productivity.

The announcement does not impact or address the ongoing legal disputes between ILWU, terminal operator ICTSI Oregon, Inc., Pacific Maritime Association, and the Port of Portland. This agreement settles the work assignment conflict on a go-forward basis only.

“I appreciate the work of IBEW 48 and the Port of Portland to take difficult steps forward in support of our broader state economy,” Kitzhaber said. “I especially want to thank the IBEW 48 members at T6 for their hard work and dedication during this long, challenging situation.”

Port of Portland Director Bill wyatt issued the following statement on the agreement:

“On behalf of the Port and the larger community of shippers and others who are concerned about the future of Terminal 6 and the vital role it plays in our regional economy, I want to thank the Governor for his leadership on this issue — it has been pivotal. This doesn’t end all aspects of this dispute, but hopefully it is the beginning of the end.”