Market Matters Blog
Katie Micik DTN Markets Editor

Wednesday 12/12/12

PNW Negotiations Bring Back Mediator

Deadlines have come and gone in the Pacific Northwest, where six grain terminals are locked in labor negotiations with the International Longshore and Warehouse Union. And after the union missed a deadline to respond to the grain handlers' latest offer, both sides agreed to return to federally mediated contract talks earlier this week.

Conversations have to reach an impasse before the grain handlers can lock out union workers without facing legal consequences. Union workers could go on strike at any time.

"While the grain handlers are aware of nothing that changes our conclusions that we are at a bargaining impasse, we agreed to the meetings requested by the federal mediators and will approach them with an open mind," Pat McCormick, a spokesman for the grain handlers, said in a statement issued late Saturday and reported in the Puget Sound Business Journal. "The grain handlers continue in full operation and have no present plans for a lockout."

Union spokeswoman Jennifer Sargent said the ILWU was hopeful about returning to the bargaining table.

"The local men and women of the ILWU have been working hard to reach a safe and fair agreement with the multinational grain industry representatives," she said in a statement issued Monday. "We look forward to returning to the bargaining table and reaching an agreement."

Here's the Puget Sound Business Journal article, http://www.bizjournals.com/…

And here's a background flyer about the terminals involved in the negotiations and the history behind the conflict: http://media.oregonlive.com/…

Posted at 2:01PM CST 12/12/12 by Katie Micik
Comments (2)
Hi Katie, great post. It was nice meeting you at the DTN summit this week. What do you think the likelihood of a work stoppage is and how much do you think it would affect grain prices?
Posted by Jevon Reile at 12:15PM CST 12/13/12
Great meeting you too Jevon! Both sides have agreed they need more time to review their options. They've passed deadline after deadline without a work stoppage. Egypt just bought a shipment of PNW wheat for delivery in January, which indicated to me that the grain terminals have convinced the export markets they'll still be able to load ships without the dockworkers, which highlights that they're negotiating from a position of strength. The terminals could lock workers out and not allow them to return unless they accept terms that are on par with the EGT terminal. As far as how it could change grain prices, that's uncertain. If a stoppage comes to pass, prices would probably soften as it takes longer to load ships and terminals absorb the cost of inefficient operations. Here's another good article I came across last night: http://www.oregonlive.com/business/index.ssf/2012/12/with_egypts_northwest_wheat_pu.html
Posted by KATIE MICIK at 1:47PM CST 12/13/12
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