More than 200 International Longshoremen’s Association members on Friday protested a New York-New Jersey container terminal’s labor-saving technology plan, foreshadowing a heated battle over East Coast and Gulf port contract negotiations.
Several local and international union officials said that they were concerned that technology used at the Global Terminal in Bayonne, N.J. would eliminate ILA jobs in terminal yards and at truck gates staffed by union clerks. GCT President Jim Devine has said Global’s primary goal is to maximize production at the port’s smallest major terminal and to improve worker safety, not to eliminate union jobs.
GCT USA, which owns Global, plans to install rail-mounted gantry cranes and truck gates with optical character recognition scanners when it expands the terminal to 170 acres from the current 100. The expansion is set for completion in 2014.
Global plans to install the rail-mounted gantries only in the terminal’s new section. But Virgil Maldonado, president of ILA Local 1588 in Bayonne, said he’s concerned that the technology eventually will be installed throughout Global and elsewhere.
“We’ve been to other terminals that have gone through this process and seen how it eliminates jobs,” he said. “We want guarantees to protect jobs that allow members to earn a decent living."
ILA President Harold Daggett, who took office last July, has criticized automation and said he will demand job guarantees for workers displaced by technology at Global and other ports.
The ILA’s coastwide contract, which expires Sept. 30, allows employers to implement labor-saving technology on six months’ notice. The union cannot block introduction of the technology but can negotiate the impact on jobs.
Daggett organized Friday’s rally but a schedule conflict precluded his attendance, a spokesman said.