In a letter sent ahead of negotiations scheduled for May 12, 2014, the Retail Industry Leaders Association (RILA) urged the Presidents of the Pacific Maritime Alliance (PMA) and the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) to take all the necessary steps to avoid costly work stoppages and strikes stemming from a protracted labor dispute and secure a contract before the expiration of the current agreement at the end of June.
The letter, addressed to James McKenna, president of PMA and Robert McEllrath, president of the ILWU, stressed the importance of preserving the reliability of the west coast ports and the role they play as important channels in retail supply chains.
“With the expiration of the current contract a mere eight weeks away, and recognizing that there are a number of challenging issues that need to be addressed, retailers remain hopeful that a new long-term agreement can be reached before the deadline,” RILA’s President, Sandy Kennedy, wrote in the letter.
As some of the largest users of the global supply chain, retailers rely on efficient transportation systems every day of the year and across a variety of channels and disruptions at any point of the system can have lasting, negative impacts on the industry and its ability to get goods to consumers. Ports play an especially key role in this process as the transportation hubs where products are moved from ship to shore and sent out via truck and rail to waiting consumers.
“Many retailers have taken stock of the uncertain labor situation at the west coast ports and have implemented contingency plans to preserve the reliability of their supply chains. Some of our members advise that they are beginning to reroute shipments through other channels,” Kennedy continued.
Keeping the west coast ports open and functioning is especially important to retailers, whose massive supply chain programs are complex and need long lead times to alter, and even longer to revert. Uncertain labor situations at the west coast ports could lead to restructured supply lines that avoid conflicts to preserve stability and reliability for retailers.
“RILA encourages both sides to engage in a productive, honest dialogue and move with haste toward a long term solution. Securing an agreement to prevent strikes and work stoppages is of paramount importance to the retail industry,” Kennedy concluded in the letter.
To read the letter in full, please click here.
RILA is the trade association of the world’s largest and most innovative retail companies. RILA members include more than 200 retailers, product manufacturers and service suppliers, which together account for more than $1.5 Trillion in annual sales, millions of American jobs and more than 100,000 stores, manufacturing facilities and distribution center domestically and abroad.