Port Of LA, Long Beach Shuts Down Over Holiday Weekend As Labor Dispute Continues

(FOX 11 / CNS) The ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach will be partially shut down today and again over the holiday weekend as a labor dispute continues between port employers and the dockworkers' union.

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According to the Pacific Maritime Association, which represents port employers, vessel loading and unloading activities at the ports will be suspended today -- which is Lincoln's birthday -- and on Saturday, Sunday and Monday, Presidents Day. The suspension of the vessel operations will prevent the companies from paying elevated holiday and weekend salaries to union workers, whom the association has accused of slowing port operations during the contract dispute.

The International Longshore and Warehouse Union has repeatedly denied taking part in a coordinated effort to slow port operations. Union officials have said employees are not given enough training opportunities so there are not enough qualified employees who can come to work.

Congestion at the ports in recent months has also been attributed by the union to industry-wide changes that include larger ships dropping off and picking up more cargo at the ports.

"This is an effort by the employers to put economic pressure on our members and to gain leverage in contract talks," ILWU President Robert McEllrath said. "The union is standing by ready to negotiate, as we have been for the past several days."

Another negotiating session is scheduled for today.

According to the PMA, longshore workers and clerks would be paid between $54 and $75 an hour on the holiday and weekend days, while foremen would receive $77 to $92 an hour.

"PMA members have concluded that they will not conduct vessel operations on those dates, paying full shifts of ILWU workers such high rates for severely diminished productivity while the backlog of cargo at West Coast ports grows," according to a statement from the association.

Although vessel operations will be halted, yard, gate and rail operations will continue at the ports, according to the association.

Vessel operations were also halted last weekend. The action by the PMA affects not only the Los Angeles/Long Beach complex, but all West Coast ports.

The ILWU blasted last weekend's halt of vessel activity as "crazy and irresponsible."

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