Shippers have reason to breathe easier, if not yet celebrate, with the kickoff of contract negotiations between the International Longshoremen’s Association and its East and Gulf coast employers.
After scaring the daylights out of cargo interests at the recent Trans-Pacific Maritime conference, ILA President Harold Daggett sought to reassure them in a joint statement with James Capo, chairman and CEO of United States Maritime Alliance.
Daggett and Capo said two days of meetings in Tampa left them optimistic they can negotiate a strike-free contract well before the current one expires Sept. 30. “We had a productive exchange of ideas that will give us a good start toward negotiating a contract sooner, rather than later, in 2012,” they said.
It was what cargo interests were hoping to hear. Even better, the statement appears to be based on substance.
The initial exchange of contract proposals was exactly that – an initial exchange of mostly general ideas about what each side would like to see in the next contract. The road will get harder as the parties get down to specifics in the weeks ahead.
However, the statements and body language of delegates streaming out of the hotel meeting hall, and the overall mood at Tampa, suggested optimism. Several whose opinions I trust told me they’re genuinely confident about the ability of union and management to settle their differences without disrupting the industry.
Tough talk notwithstanding, the ILA isn’t itching for a strike. And if the vibes from Tampa are any indication, there won’t be one.