PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — A federal judge has set a Tuesday deadline for a deal to end a dispute that has slowed the flow of cargo at the Port of Portland.
At a hearing Friday, former Gov. Ted Kulongoski told U.S. District Judge Michael Simon no agreement has been reached between the unions representing longshoremen and electrical workers. The unions disagree about which workers should plug in and unplug refrigerated shipping containers — the equivalent of two full-time jobs.
Simon appointed Kulongoski last week to broker a settlement. If there's no deal by Tuesday, the judge said he may act on a request for a temporary restraining order that would require the longshoremen to stop a work slowdown that has disrupted port operations for more than three weeks.
Simon could also act on a separate temporary restraining order sought by the longshoremen. It asks the judge to give them the disputed work.
More than 1,000 regional businesses depend on the container terminal to get their goods to or from international markets.
The conflict has led the two main shipping lines that serve the port's Terminal 6 — Germany's Hapag-Lloyd AG and South Korea's Hanjin — to divert their ships to other ports. A Hapag-Lloyd ship, however, is tentatively scheduled to arrive at Terminal 6 late Tuesday or early Wednesday.
A quartet of lawyers — representing the electrical workers, the Port of Portland, the National Labor Relations Board and the company that operates the terminal — urged Simon to immediately grant a temporary restraining order compelling the longshoremen to boost production. The slowdown is doing irreparable harm to the region, they said, and must end before the Hapag-Lloyd ship arrives.
"If this vessel comes and if it has a problem, it's highly unlikely we'll see any other vessels for a long time," said Randy Foster, an attorney representing the port.
But Rob Remar, attorney for the International Longshore and Warehouse Union, told the judge that an order against the longshoremen would de-stabilize negotiations, and the attorneys seeking it were only trying to obtain bargaining leverage.
"They seem to want to win the war for themselves," Remar said. "We're trying to win the peace for everyone."
The judge decided to give the parties "one more chance" to negotiate a settlement. He scheduled a Tuesday morning hearing.
If there's no deal by then, "I'm going to assume and conclude the parties have been unable to work out an agreement and I will act accordingly," he said.
The electrical workers have maintained the reefers for decades under an agreement with the Port of Portland. The question of whether they should continue to perform it arose after the port leased Terminal 6 operations to ICTSI Oregon Inc., a subsidiary of a company in the Philippines.
Now that a private company is in control, the longshoremen say the jobs must switch to them because of the collective bargaining agreement between the ILWU and the Pacific Maritime Association that covers all West Coast ports.