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Port of Portland’s latest labor issue: Honduras

By STEVEN DUBOIS

Associated Press

The Portland terminal is operated by ICTSI Oregon Inc., a subsidiary of ICTSI, a Philippines-based company that operates a Honduras port that has had labor-management problems. A small group of Honduran dockworkers stood outside the Portland container yard holding signs in English and Spanish.

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — Longshore union workers at the Port of Portland’s container terminal stopped working Tuesday afternoon to honor a picket line established by Central American port workers, an action that intensified their adversarial relationship with management.

The Portland terminal is operated by ICTSI Oregon Inc., a subsidiary of ICTSI, a Philippines-based company that operates a Honduras port that has had labor-management problems. A small group of Honduran dockworkers stood outside the Portland container yard holding signs in English and Spanish.

Jennifer Sargent, spokeswoman for the International Longshore and Warehouse Union, said longshoremen have a contractual right to honor picket lines, even those established by union workers from another country. She declined to say when the picket might end and local longshoremen return to work.

ICTSI Oregon CEO Elvis Ganda criticized the work stoppage as illegal.

“Suffice it to say that any issues at other terminals operated by companies that may be affiliated with ICTSI Oregon, Inc.’s parent company have no connection or relation to ICTSI Oregon, Inc.’s operations locally,” he said in a statement.

Friction between the union and ICTSI Oregon has not ceased in two years, and it’s one reason Hanjin Shipping — the port’s most important container carrier — has threatened to abandon Portland. The South Korean shipping line is responsible for more than three-quarters of the container volume at the port’s Terminal 6. Many Oregon businesses will face increased costs if cargo must be trucked to or from the Seattle area.

Ganda’s statement accused the union of trying to drive Hanjin out of Portland and to close Terminal 6.

“The ILWU knows full well that Hanjin is currently making its decision about the continuation of its call on Oregon’s only container terminal and that Hanjin is greatly concerned about the performance and productivity of the ILWU workforce and labor stability,” he said.

ICTSI, a major global ports operator, signed a 25-year lease in 2010 to operate the Port of Portland’s struggling container terminal. It represented the company’s first venture in the United States, and management quickly clashed with American labor.

The union has described the operator’s labor-management model as “authoritarian and intimidation-based,” and said worker morale is low.

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