Labor Dispute Shuts Down Port of Oakland's Largest Terminal

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A container ship sits docked in a berth at the Port of Oakland on Feb. 11, 2015. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

Thirty unionized dockworkers at the Port of Oakland were fired this morning for showing up for work 15 minutes after their employer asked them to arrive, a dispute that resulted in the suspension of daytime operations at the facility's largest terminal.

The employees, represented by the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU), arrived at work at the Oakland International Container Terminal at 7 a.m., ILWU spokesman Craig Merrilees said.

Last week, the company that operates that terminal, SSA Marine, told its dockworkers to show up at 6:45 a.m., Merrilees said, adding that 7 a.m. is the time designated for ILWU members to arrive, according to their contract.

"We're arguing with these folks over 15 minutes, but it's a matter of respecting the word that they gave in writing and making sure that people honor their word," Merrilees said in an interview. "The operator of the dock decided that they would no longer observe and respect the contract and would start requiring workers to come in earlier than the contract specified."

An arbitrator is working with the ILWU and the Pacific Maritime Association, which represents the port's shipping companies, to resolve the conflict.

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The maritime association has yet to comment. Wade Gates, a spokesman for the group, said in an email that he has yet to learn about the details of the conflict.

Operations at the terminal are expected to resume for evening shifts, Mike Zampa, communications director at the Port of Oakland, said in an email. All other terminals at the port are operating normally, Zampa said.

The dispute comes a year after a labor conflict between the ILWU and the shipping companies affected traffic at ports throughout the West Coast.

Merrilees said Monday's conflict occurred after relations between the two sides had improved.

"This is very strange," Merrilees said. "Things had been getting better, and the companies and the union have been able to work out problems, at least with most companies."