The clock is ticking toward a possible shutdown of a critical lifeline for Hawaii.
On Wednesday, negotiators representing shipping companies locked in a contract dispute with union workers warned that docks on the West Coast could shut down in less than 10 days.
The war of words between the Pacific Maritime Association, which represents shipping companies like Matson Navigation and Horizon Lines, and the International Longshore and Warehouse Union now includes pictures. Both sides met Thursday and are expected to return to the table Friday.
On Thursday, the ILWU released photos showing empty docks in Southern California, challenging management’s allegation that claims worker slowdowns led to freight delays because of congestion at the docks.
More than 90 percent of our goods are shipped into the state. Merchants who own the cargo–companies like Costco and Walmart–are members of the Hawaii Shippers Council.
“My guess is that we’ll probably see a lockout,” said council president Mike Hansen. “I know that Costco has been stockpiling inventory. They’ve made that publicly known. I’m not sure what of any other company that has taken that kind of action here locally.”
KHON2 also spoke to Nate Lum, director of ILWU’s Hawaii division, and Clayton Kamida, president and CEO of the Hawaii Employers Council, who represents management here in the islands. They told KHON2 they would issue a joint statement if there was any major development with the contract talks taking place in California.
The Hawaii Food Industry Association, whose members include grocery stores and their suppliers, told KHON2 it is concerned about the West Coast labor dispute and will continue to monitor the situation.
At the State Capitol, Sen. Sam Slom (R-East Oahu) is calling on President Barack Obama to step into the labor talks. He still remembers the impact here of the last dock shutdown 13 years ago.
“It was difficult, very difficult,” he said. “A lot of people probably don’t remember, or weren’t born, or were around back then to live through it, but it just points out how vulnerable and how dependent we are on ocean shipping.”
Even if there is a dock shutdown, officials here and the Hawaii Congressional delegation can, like they did in 2002, call for an exemption to allow the cargo to keep flowing to Hawaii.