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3/29/2016 12:00:00 PM Write a Letter to the Editor Write a letter to the Editor

Port of Oakland Cargo Operations Snarled by Labor-Management Dispute

David Paul Morris/Bloomberg News

OAKLAND, Calif. — A labor dispute linked to a group of dismissed dockworkers disrupted cargo handling at the Port of Oakland on March 28, and completely halted operations at one of the terminals at the East Bay cargo hub, port officials said.

The turmoil involved Stevedore Services of America, commonly known as SSA Marine Terminals.

"Daytime operations were suspended" at SSA Marine's Oakland International Container Terminal, said Michael Zampa, a spokesman for the Port of Oakland.

The terminal involved is the largest at the Port of Oakland, which has five terminals.

"It's a labor-management dispute," Zampa said.

The cause or nature of the work disagreement wasn't immediately disclosed.

"We have heard work has temporarily stopped," Zampa said. "Operations are expected to resume on the evening shift." That evening shift was due to begin at 8 p.m.

The disruption caused trucks drivers picking up or dropping off containers to become stuck in long lines of vehicles.

Officials with International Longshore and Warehouse Union Local 10, the principal representative of rank-and-file workers at the Oakland port, said the work stoppage was connected with the firing of 22 dock employees at the port.

"The ILWU called in an arbitrator, who ruled that the company acted improperly by dismissing 22 workers," said Craig Merrilees, an ILWU spokesman. "The workers were made whole" under the ruling.

The 22 workers were dismissed for the day, but the arbitrator determined that they could return to the job Tuesday and be paid for Monday's hours.

"The company wanted to change the workday and the start times, in violation of the contract," Merrilees said. SSA sought to start the workers' shifts 15 minutes earlier.

SSA Marine Terminals and Oakland International Container Terminal didn't return phone inquiries about the situation on Monday.

The arbitrator also determined that 44 dockworkers who stopped working to show support for the dismissed workers acted improperly.

"The company can't just tear up the contract on its own," Merrilees said.

By George Avalos
Contra Costa Times (Walnut Creek, Calif.)

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