A tentative agreement reached on Friday between the International Longshore and Warehouse Union and the Pacific Maritime Association was met with a sigh of relief by many, particularly by members of the California almond industry.
“We are pleased that the parties involved have responded positively to the efforts by U.S. Labor Secretary Thomas Perez to resolve this situation,” said Almond Hullers and Processors Association President Kelly Covello. “This labor dispute has caused severe economic hardship to the California almond industry and we are hopeful the tentative settlement will be quickly approved by members of the ILWU.”
The agreement comes as the end of a 9-month labor dispute which has included a multiple day work stoppage at the Port of Oakland, leaving thousands of tons of cargo backed up on sea and land.
Finding the middle ground for the ILWU and PMA proved not to be a simple task, as the White House felt the need to intervene by sending U.S. Labor Secretary Thomas Perez to San Francisco to facilitate the deal.
If approved, the contract would span the course of five years and cover workers at all 29 West Coast ports.
With the tentative agreement on the table, West Coast ports have resumed full operations. However, officials report that it will take a considerable amount of time to recuperate after the lengthy dispute.
“Port officials are saying it will take many weeks to recover from the backlog as ships are anchored off-shore waiting to unload cargo and pick up shipments,” said Covello. “We urge both sides to work as efficiently and as quickly as possible to eliminate this backlog and get shipping activity back to normal.”
According to Covello, approximately 70 percent of California almonds are exported and nearly 80 percent of bulk almond exports by value are exported from the Port of Oakland. Covello stated that bulk almonds alone have accounted for over 16 percent of the $21.1 billion in goods exported from the Port of Oakland in 2014.
As demonstrated by the AHPA, the California almond industry heavily relies on the ability to export their product to different buyers throughout the world.
Although the almond organization initially met the tentative agreement with a sigh of relief, that sigh has now evolved into nail-biting as shippers wait to see the impact the West Coast port dispute has had on the trust of buyers.
“Importers and buyers expect a certain level of reliability and predictability and that trust was eroded by this slowdown,” said Covello. “The California almond industry relies on the free flow of international trade.”
“We hope those trade relations will be restored with the settlement of dispute,” Covello added.