(Feb. 3) SAN FRANCISCO — Though the dispute between the Pacific Maritime Association and the International Longshore and Warehouse Union has ended, movement at West Coast ports is still struggling to get back to normal.

The two sides ratified a contract on Jan. 22 that guarantees to keep things moving through the ports for the next six years. But some in the produce industry say the aftereffects of an 11-day lockout last fall are still taking their toll on shipments.

Ken Gilliland, manager of transportation and international trade for the Western Growers Association, Newport Beach, Calif., said there were still some problems but that things are gradually getting back to normal.

Claire Smith, public relations manager for Sunkist Growers Inc., Sherman Oaks, Calif., said shipments are moving at a less than normal pace.

“We’re about 80% to 90% of normal,” she said. “There are still some problems going on.”

SCHEDULING PROBLEMS

Smith said the problems were mostly with scheduling. Some shipping companies, she said, are changing schedules with little notice.

“That’s creating some coordination problems,” she said. “We even had a problem where they didn’t stop at one of the ports they were supposed to.”

Smith said Sunkist’s Japanese charter out of the Port of Hueneme in Ventura County was one of few operations that was back up to full speed. In spite of the problems, she said, growers and shippers are relieved that the situation has been resolved.

“Everyone is delighted that the contract is in place,” she said. “The problem is that it’s taking this long to get all of the kinks worked out.”

MOST UNION MEMBERS IN FAVOR

Nearly 90% of the members of the longshoremen’s union voted to ratify the contract, which gave workers generous health and pension benefits in exchange for new cargo tracking technology to be installed at the ports.

The technology had been a major sticking point in the negotiations, as workers feared it would end up costing union jobs.

Under the terms of the contract, 400 marine clerks will be relieved of their duties to make way for the new technology. They will not, however, be unemployed. The contract guarantees them five days of work per week for the rest of their careers doing other chores around the docks.

The union workers will also receive a nearly 60% increase in pension.