Work resumes at ports after Thursday work stoppage

CHARLESTON HARBOR, S.C. (WCIV) -- Work resumed normally at the ports on Friday after workers who left the job Thursday morning returned to work.

Officials with the South Carolina State Ports Authority said the workers returned to their positions around 7 p.m. Thursday. The return came after U.S. District Judge David Norton signed a temporary restraining order telling the members to return to work, reports the Associated Press.

Ports Authority officials said there is a slight backup Friday with two ships being worked at the Wando Terminal and three others awaiting berths. At the North Charleston Terminal, two ships are being worked with two more awaiting berths. The four being worked Friday morning were supposed to be finished on Thursday, but the work stoppage prevented that, officials said.

Officials expect all of the work from Thursday and Friday, however.

But there are questions concerning the workers who left the Wando and North Charleston terminals Thursday morning. Port officials called it a walk-off, but the labor union says the workers were fired.

The spokesman said members of the International Longshoremen's Association walked off the job Thursday morning. According to ports officials, the walk-off happened around 9:40 a.m. when several members of ILA Local 1771 left their positions during vessel operations at the Wando Welch Terminal and the North Charleston Terminal.

It appears that a conflict between union members working at the port and the Stevedoring company that employees them hit an impasse. ILA president Ken Riley said the employees were fired, a turn of events that was completely unexpected.

According to Riley, the group of mostly clerks and clerical workers were told on Wednesday that their roles were being expanded. The group refused, Riley said, because the additional duties fell outside the labor deal set up with the union.

That's when the workers were told to take up the changes or face termination, Riley said. They were terminated Thursday morning, he added.{} Port officials offered no further comment on the situation.

The Local 1771 is made up of clerks and checkers, ports officials said.

According to Riley, the groups were actively involved in negotiations that were progressing toward a new deal. Currently, the union employees are working under the terms of an old contract that expired almost a year ago.

"Things were going well," Riley said, adding that the unit that was fired was not even being discussed in the negotiations.

At the time of the incident, there was one ship docked at Wando and two at North Charleston. Officials said there has been no impact to the inbound or outbound truck gates at any of the South Carolina Port Authority terminals.

Ports officials did not know why the workers walked off the job. Riley did not know how many workers were affected.


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