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ILWU warned on lax security at Port of Oakland
By Bill Mongelluzzo, The JOURNAL of COMMERCE ONLINE

OAKLAND, Calif (Wed Apr 12, 2006) -- A local longshore union head pledged to work with the government to ensure safety at the Port of Oakland after a Coast Guard official threatened to unilaterally impose federally-mandated access-control measures at marine terminals there.

Coast Guard Captain of the Port W.J. Uberti warned in a letter that his agency could take action after a review found lax security procedures at the West Coast hub.

Dave Gonzalez, president of International Longshore and Warehouse Union Local 10, informed Uberti that the union wants to cooperate with the government to establish a security program not only for Oakland, but for all ports on the West Coast, said ILWU spokesman Steve Stallone.

"We understand the Coast Guard wants to do this quickly," Stallone said Wednesday.

A Coast Guard review late last year determined that security plans enforced by terminal operators at Oakland were not adequate. On several different occasions, a local man posing as a longshoreman was able to sneak on to vessels at the port. The man has since been arrested.

The Coast Guard over the past four months conducted a series of meetings with maritime industry representatives, including executives of the ILWU and the Pacific Maritime Association, and developed a plan to control access to marine terminals, Uberti said.

Under the plan, longshoremen each day are required to present their PMA-issued photo identification card and a work ticket from the dispatch hall when they enter a marine terminal. The union is also required to file with each terminal a list of the workers dispatched to the facility that day, and the security officer is to check that list against the cards swiped at the terminal gate.

The ILWU is not fully complying with these procedures, Uberti said. "I find this unwillingness to compromise and lack of commitment to the security of our ports very troubling," he stated in an April 7 letter to James Spinosa, ILWU international president.

The ILWU is concerned that employers or the government could use information contained on the ID cards to penalize longshoremen for past actions that had nothing to do with national security. Uberti said he is aware of the union's concerns and thought the issue had been resolved at the meetings the Coast Guard held with the PMA and the union.

The Coast Guard captain, who is also the government's Maritime Security Coordinator, urged the union and the PMA to develop a long-term solution to ILWU dispatch procedures during the next coastwide contract negotiations in 2008. Meanwhile, though, Uberti said he expects the ILWU to comply fully with the current terminal access security plan.

"Barring your cooperation in this matter, I will be forced to work unilaterally to impose access control procedures required by federal regulation which your members may find overly-burdensome," he said.

Bill Mongelluzzo can be reached at bmongelluzzo@joc.com.

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