Shippers represented by the Pacific Maritime Association said this week that vessel operations at West Coast ports would be suspended on four upcoming dates.
The suspensions come as PMA is engaged in labor talks with International Longshore Warehouse Union workers.
PMA said yard, gate and rail operations will continue at terminal operators’ discretion on the days – today, Lincoln's birthday; Saturday; Sunday; and Monday, Washington's birthday. In Southern California, terminal operators will expand daytime vessel operations on non-holiday weekdays, they said.
The suspensions are due to a mix of worker slowdowns and the expense of holiday pay, PMA said.
According to the Association, weekend and holiday pay rates command a premium of at least 50% of the basic longshore wage rate. As a result, working hours on those days would be paid at between $54 and $75 per hour for longshore workers and clerks, and between $77 and $92 per hour for foremen.
"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," a PMA statement said.
The Association holds that workers have instigated a slowdown as labor talks drag on. ILWU, however, says they have been willing to negotiate but PMA employers have not made themselves available to negotiate since Friday of last week.
"The Union is standing by ready to negotiate, as we have been for the past several days," ILWU President Robert McEllrath said in a statement.
PMA provided a contract offer last week, to which ILWU presented a counter-offer. PMA says that the Union responded with "demands they knew we could not meet, and continued slowdowns that will soon bring West Coast ports to gridlock."
Though a federal mediator was appointed last month, the negotiations have been ongoing for the last nine months. Contracts expired last summer.
Some estimates suggest the U.S. has lost billions in trade revenue due to the dispute; the National Pork Producers Council has cited a figure of $30 million in losses for U.S. meat and poultry industries alone.