With just five weeks left on their current contract, the International Longshoremen’s Association and United States Maritime Alliance resume negotiations today on a new labor agreement for East and Gulf Coast ports.
Many shippers have already begun accelerating shipments or taking other steps to protect themselves from the threat of disruptions surrounding the contract’s Sept. 30 expiration.
Small committees representing the ILA and USMX have scheduled meetings through Friday in Delray Beach, Fla. These sessions will be followed, probably in early September, by another round of talks involving the ILA’s 200-member wage scale committee.
The most recent negotiations in late July produced agreement in principle on two of the thorniest contract issues — a framework for dealing with automation at terminals, and provisions to protect ILA jurisdiction over chassis maintenance and repair.
ILA President Harold Daggett and USMX Chairman/CEO James Capo said after the July meetings that the progress left them optimistic about a strike-free agreement.
The ILA hasn’t had a coastwide strike since 1977, but Daggett raised shipper concerns last March when he warned at The Journal of Commerce’s TPM container shipping conference that a strike was possible if key union demands weren’t met.
Since last month’s negotiations on the coastwide contract, union and management representatives have begun discussing supplementary local and regional contracts covering work rules, pensions and other port-specific issues.
Local negotiations for the Port of New York and New Jersey are scheduled for Aug. 28-29.