December 30 - The union representing dockworkers at ports along the US West Coast has requested that "key decision makers" become involved in its contract talks with the group acting on behalf of employers.

The carriers and terminal executives on Pacific Maritime Association's (PMA) board of directors also need to be at the bargaining table in order for "direct and constructive dialogue" to happen, says the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU), claiming that the board has not directly participated in talks, while the ILWU's "principal decision makers" have been present. The last contract expired in July this year.

Robert McEllrath, ILWU president and chairman of the Union's Negotiating Committee said both sides need the right people in the room to get things finalised.

"Indirect negotiations won't get us over the finish line," McEllrath said in a statement. "The few issues that remain unresolved relate directly to the carriers and these key carriers need to come to the table."

In response, PMA said it is aware of the ramifications of ILWU work actions on the West Coast's competitive standing, adding that its board has been "intimately involved" in talks since before they began in May.

PMA officials said the ILWU's call for the addition of its board of directors at talks underscores the need for federal mediation.

"Unfortunately, the characterisation that the PMA and ILWU have only a 'few issues' left to resolve is inaccurate," the association says. "Significant issues remain unresolved, including wages, pensions, jurisdiction and work rules. Further, the ILWU's escalating rhetoric on congestion is nothing more than a smokescreen for its slowdown activities."