Los Angeles, Long Beach Ports To Partially Shutdown This Weekend

(FOX 11 / CNS) The Los Angeles and Long Beach ports will partially shut down this weekend under an order by the Pacific Maritime Association to suspend vessel loading and unloading activities at West Coast ports, association officials said Friday.

RELATED: Ongoing Labor Dispute, Increased Ship Traffic Create 'Perfect Storm' At Ports
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The maritime association -- which represents port employers -- issued an order to halt the loading and unloading of ships at West Coast ports over the weekend, citing low productivity at the 29 ports due to an ongoing labor dispute. Terminal operators can still move containers out of their yards.

Operations are scheduled to resume Monday.

"After three months of union slowdowns, it makes no sense to pay extra for less work, especially if there is no end in sight to the union's actions which needlessly brought West Coast ports to the brink of gridlock,'' PMA spokesman Wade Gates said.

Craig Merrilees, spokesman for the International Longshore and Warehouse Union, which represents dockworkers, called the order "crazy and irresponsible.''

"Customers need their containers and have already suffered from industry caused delays and congestion,'' Merrilees said.

Instead of stopping work at the ports, "the focus needs to be on resolving the contract and reaching an agreement as soon as possible,'' he said.

PMA has accused the union of employing an illegal slowdown tactic that has cut productivity by as much as 50 percent. ILWU officials deny the claim, saying they are only allowing certified crane operators to come to work.

Port management and dockworkers have been engaged in federal mediation over renewal of a contract that expired in July.

PMA officials announced Wednesday they gave the union their best contract offer, which included raising wages 3 percent each year of the five year contract and increasing pensions.

Merrilees said the contract is days old and not the main point of contention in the talks, adding that this latest move is "shocking,'' considering that the two sides are still negotiating. ILWU officials said this week the two sides were "extremely close'' to resolving their issues.

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