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West Coast ports to temporarily suspend vessel operations this weekend

Cargo carriers at the Port of Long Beach.
Stock Photo: Maya Sugarman/KPCC
Cargo carriers at the Port of Long Beach.

Weekend vessel loading and unloading operations will be temporarily suspended this weekend, The Pacific Maritime Association (PMA) announced in a statement Friday.

The suspension comes in light of ongoing union slowdowns on the west coast that have caused port delays. PMA member companies decided they will no longer continue to pay workers “premium pay for diminished work,” the PMA noted.

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

House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, speaking at Town Hall Los Angeles Friday,  said the federal government should intervene in the labor negotiations at the Los Angeles ports.

"This is a place where Washington could step in,” the Bakersfield Republican said.  “I've requested … a mediator [to] settle this problem. This is a loss for all of California."

Vessel operations are scheduled to resume Monday. Yard, rail and gate operations will continue at terminal operators’ discretion.

Jock O'Connell, international trade advisor at​ Beacon Economics, told KPCC that the fact that the option to suspend port operations is left to the terminal operator's discretion is odd. 

"What it says to me, is that there is a possibility that not all PMA members are on board with the position of the PMA negotiators," O'Connell said.

O' Connell said the semi-lockdown would have a minimal impact because it would only last the weekend. This on top of the fact that February is not a busy month at the maritime facilities. 

"Shutting down operations is going to be more of an annoyance than anywhere near a catastrophe economically," O'Connell said.

O' Connell said that the situation is heading towards a full lockdown. 

"The problem is these two parties have been negotiating now for several months since last May. ... They seem to be far apart on some key issues that are leading them to engage in fairly draconian actions," O'Connell said.

A full lockdown would greatly affect people whose jobs are directly dependent on the port. 

"The likelihood that we are going to see any end to this in the next few days is probably fairly slender," O'Connell said.

This story has been updated.