Although the industry breathed a sigh of relief when the president issued a back-to-work order on Oct. 9 in the dockworkers labor impasse, the situation still isn't resolved and negotiations crawl along. And no one is sure when the cooling off period is over Dec. 27 what exactly will happen if an agreement isn't reached.
"Things are moving, but slower than we'd like," said Bob Whip, Horizon Fitness president.
His company isn't the only one that brought in goods early and tried to divert to other ports, such as Seattle, Wash., to get around the impending logjam that could have dire effects on the important holiday and New Year's selling seasons in fitness.
With a cooling-off period, the problem has shifted from boats with full containers floating in the Pacific, to trying to get them all unloaded on what dockworkers claim are overly crowded docks that slow the process, to getting the product moved domestically to its destination. In addition, getting containers that were stuck in the West Coast ports back overseas and refilled has created an additional bottleneck, SNEWS has been told. And if a settlement isn't reach, goods that leave issue now may again be stuck on the water in late December.
Latest reports from late last week show that the Department of Justice has notified the courts that both sides hold some responsibility in the drop in productivity since the workers returned, but since it has not pinpointed blame it will not impose any penalties of contempt of court. "There has been a considerable drop in productivity," said Justice Department lawyer Mark Quinlivan, adding that there was progress by both sides toward thinning out the backlog. Negotiations meanwhile continued as a federal mediator works to resolve the labor issues between the ILWU and the PMA.
After the cooling-off period expires at midnight Dec. 27, the government has no power to stop a new lockout by the docks or a strike by the union. For more information, go to either the management's site at www.pmanet.com or the union's at www.ilwu.org.