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Dockworkers Settle Dispute Over Automation

Four hundred West Coast dockworkers to be replaced by IT systems will be guaranteed other positions.

InformationWeek Staff

January 23, 2003

1 Min Read

West Coast longshore workers and port employers have agreed on a six-year labor contract that accepts new information technology designed to make West Coast docks more efficient.

About 400 marine dockworkers with the International Longshore and Warehouse Union will be replaced by the cargo-tracking technology, but affected workers are guaranteed at least five workdays per week managing other dock responsibilities for the duration of their careers. The new contract is scheduled to take effect Feb. 1.

Port employers, all members of the Pacific Maritime Association, say automation will help dissuade domestic businesses from turning to overseas contractors to transport the $300 billion in goods that move each year through West Coast ports. The association estimates that West Coast docks process 4,000 containers per acre per year, while Taiwan and Singapore ports process quadruple that amount. Scanners tracking cargo are expected to be more efficient than laborers doing the same work with pen and paper.

Union officials will have jurisdiction over any jobs involving the use of new technology. Automation-related job and salary loss was a major point of dispute between union and association leaders, prompting a 10-day lockout of union workers by port employers, who alleged dockworkers were staging a work slowdown.

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