Union negotiators meet with Caltrans reps

December 29, 2008 10:14:41 PM PST
Monday afternoon Longshoremen were expressing optimism at finding a resolution to the impasse at Pier 7 at the Port of Oakland, where union negotiators were meeting with Caltrans representatives and a private contractor.

They were trying to settle a labor dispute delaying construction on the eastern span of the new Bay Bridge.

However, with Highway Patrol officers and Oakland Police on-hand, talks were still underway Monday night.

"Jurisdiction," is the core issue according to members of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union in its dispute with Caltrans over the unloading of a cargo ship full of steel.

The ship contains vital parts bound for the new eastern span of the Bay Bridge, parts that so far have gone nowhere.

"At this point it has not delayed other operations relative to the self-anchored suspension portion of the bridge. But, if we continue to have a delay it very well could," said Caltrans spokesman Bart Ney.

For the past five years the contractor hired by Caltrans has used steelworkers and engineers from other unions to unload supplies from smaller boats and barges at Pier 7.

Larger ships were offloaded in San Francisco.

The arrangement was fine with the Longshoremen until the Zhen Hua pulled into Oakland last Friday. That is when police had to be called in to control the commotion after the Longshoremen blocked the unloading of the ship.

Local 10 also posted noisy pickets at Pier 7 through the weekend, but suspended that effort Monday morning when talks got underway.

"We don't want to have the misconception that we have unions fighting here over work. I think it's just a matter of working out the details, making sure all the unions are involved, making sure the jurisdiction is honored? And, later we get to that point I think we will have some resolution," said Trent Willis with the Longshoremen's Union.

Whatever the outcome is the issue needs to be resolved. This is the first of many cargo ships of this size Caltrans is expecting to pull into Pier 7 over the next year.

At least ten more are coming.


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