International Longshoremen’s Association President Harold Daggett said United States Maritime Alliance has been unwilling to agree to ILA contract demands for job guarantees in exchange for increased use of labor-saving technology.
In a letter to ILA locals, Daggett advised union officers to “inform their memberships that they should prepare themselves for any action we may have to take if USMX’s position does not change.”
Representatives of the ILA and USMX met in Tampa in late March and exchanged initial proposals for a coastwide master contract to replace the one that expires Sept. 30 for dockworkers in East and Gulf coast ports. After the meeting, the two sides issued a joint statement saying they were confident of reaching an agreement well before the contract’s expiration.
The ILA hasn’t had a coastwide strike in 35 years. In his letter Friday, Daggett said the two sides’ initial proposals in Tampa were “far apart.”
Since the Tampa meetings, Daggett said he has had “sporadic conversations” with USMX Chairman and CEO James Capo. “I was hopeful that these conversations would expand to subsequent meetings and full-blown negotiations,” Daggett said. “Unfortunately, that has not been the case. It appears at this time that USMX is unwilling to agree to the ILA’s main demand for job protection for the members affected by automated terminals.”
Capo was unavailable for comment.
Daggett said he plans to call a meeting of the union’s 200-member wage scale committee in late June to discuss contract issues.
Major retailers and other importers are anxiously watching this year’s negotiations, the first since Daggett was elected ILA president last year. Several large shippers have said they may start diverting some cargo to West Coast ports if negotiations don’t show progress by this summer.
Daggett has identified automation and technology as the ILA’s top priority in the negotiations. He also has issued chassis pools, work jurisdiction and container weights as top issues.
Employers have insisted that marine terminals must invest in technology if East and Gulf Coast ports are to generate improved productivity needed to increase cargo volumes that support ILA wages and benefits.
Contact Joseph Bonney at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @JosephBonney.