ILWU sees Temco pact useful in other talks

Grain official: Using it as basis for negotiations is a 'nonstarter'

By Aaron Corvin, Columbian port & economy reporter

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The International Longshore and Warehouse Union, in its dispute over a new employment contract with Northwest grain terminal operators, views a temporary agreement it signed with U.S.-based Temco as a road map for resolving its differences with three other companies.

Details of the Temco contract, obtained Friday by The Columbian, illustrate for the first time why. In several ways, the contract appears to maintain the ILWU's ability to influence workplace decisions affecting its workers. That includes giving first preference to registered Longshoremen when the employer needs to tap a reserve labor pool.

By contrast, language in the contract offered by United Grain, Columbia Grain and Louis Dreyfus Commodities appears to give managers far more discretion in staffing and other decisions.

But it's unclear how much weight the Temco contract will carry as the standoff between United Grain and locked-out dockworkers at the Port of Vancouver heads into its seventh week. Relaunched negotiations in late March, which involved discussions of the Temco contract, quickly broke down.

And the Temco agreement is temporary. It doesn't break up the bargaining between the ILWU and the Pacific Northwest Grain Handlers Association, which represents United Grain, Columbia Grain and Louis Dreyfus Commodities.

"Any agreement that is ultimately agreed to with (the Pacific Northwest Grain Handlers Association) -- better or worse -- supplants" the agreement with Temco, according to a summary of the Temco contract.

Jennifer Sargent, spokeswoman for the ILWU, said in an email to The Columbian Friday that about 75 percent of local union members in Vancouver, Portland, Seattle, Tacoma, Longview and Kalama voted to approve the Temco agreement.

What's more, she said, the Temco contract is superior to the one imposed by United Grain, Columbia Grain and Louis Dreyfus because it "preserves a

fair grievance machinery to protect workers' rights in case of workplace disputes, predictable and regular work shifts that respect family life, recognition of holidays such as Christmas, and the preservation of jurisdiction established since 1934."

Pat McCormick, spokesman for the Pacific Northwest Grain Handlers Association, said Friday using the Temco agreement as a basis for continuing discussions remains a "non-starter."

The Grain Handlers Association has said separate, more employer-friendly contracts the ILWU signed with terminal operators in Longview and Kalama left United Grain, Columbia Grain and Louis Dreyfus at a competitive disadvantage. The group also has said the contract it has offered to union dockworkers in Vancouver, Portland and Seattle is fair and generous.

The dispute between the ILWU and the grain terminal operators intensified on Feb. 27, when United Grain locked out 44 dockworkers at the Port of Vancouver after it alleged that a union official sabotaged equipment. The ILWU has denied any wrongdoing. Local union dockworkers have maintained picket lines in Vancouver, and United Grain continues to operate its terminal using managers and non-union employees.

Complaint filed

Meanwhile, the ILWU has filed an unfair labor practice complaint against United Grain, which the National Labor Relations Board is investigating.

The Pacific Northwest has nine grain shipping terminals, with two in Puget Sound and seven along the Columbia River.

At issue is a dispute over a new labor contract between the ILWU and three companies -- United Grain, Columbia Grain and Louis Dreyfus Commodities -- that operate a total of four grain-export terminals in Vancouver, Portland and Seattle.

TEMCO LLC is a joint venture between Cargill, Inc and CHS Inc. The agreement covers grain export facilities in Tacoma, Kalama, and Portland.

Aaron Corvin: http://twitter.com/col_econ;http://on.fb.me/AaronCorvin; 360-735-4518; aaron.corvin@columbian.com .