The top negotiator for East and Gulf Coast waterfront management said International Longshoremen’s Association President Harold Daggett “appears to be less-than-committed to engaging in meaningful bargaining” on a new contract.
In a letter published on the United States Maritime Alliance Web site, USMX Chairman and CEO James Capo urged the ILA president to agree to negotiations without preconditions and to work to avoid disruptions when the union’s contract expires on Sept. 30.
Capo said USMX is “ready to engage in substantive negotiations with the ILA and would urge the union president not to impose any preconditions on negotiations before coming to the bargaining table.”
Capo was responding to Daggett’s letter to ILA members last week saying negotiations were stalled. Daggett’s letter said management appeared “unwilling to agree to the ILA’s main demand for job protection” from automation and that union members “should prepare themselves for any action we may have to take if USMX’s position does not change.”
“Mr. Daggett has put forth several demands, or ‘hurdles,’ as he calls them, but has adamantly refused to negotiate or even discuss these or any other issues at the bargaining table unless management first agrees to his demands,” Capo said. “That’s hardly good faith bargaining, in which the process gives both sides an opportunity to voice their concerns and present their proposals.”
Many of Daggett’s demands “would reduce productivity, increase congestion, and add unnecessary costs at the East and Gulf Coast ports,” Capo added.
At The Journal of Commerce’s TPM ocean shipping conference in March, Daggett identified automation and technology, union jurisdiction, chassis and weighing of containers as potential strike issues. Capo said Daggett “is demanding that management guarantee a job for any worker, even if the new technology eliminates the need for the position.” Capo noted the current contract already requires negotiations on the impact of new technology on ILA jobs.
Technology is needed to handle increasing cargo volumes that will make the ports more competitive and provide additional work for ILA members, Capo said. He said ILA workers average $124,138 a year in wages and benefits and have a health plan with no premiums and minimal co-payments and deductibles.
Capo said Daggett’s demand that chassis pool operators join USMX and be bound by the union’s master contract would be impossible to achieve because USMX cannot legally force pool operators to join.
Although they are not covered by the ILA-USMX master contract, pool operators have pledged to continue using ILA members to maintain and repair chassis and to honor ILA jurisdiction. “We have no reason to believe they will not continue to honor that agreement,” Capo said.
Daggett’s demand that the ILA weigh all import containers at the pier “would create more unneeded work, add unnecessary expense and increase congestion at the ports,” Capo said.
Shippers have been watching the ILA-USMX negotiations closely. Logistics managers at several major companies have said they expect to begin diverting some peak-season cargo to the West Coast by early summer if the negotiations don’t show progress.
Capo said the Retail Industry Leaders Association and National Retail Federation “have expressed concerns from their members regarding Mr. Daggett’s May 25, 2012 letter to the ILA and the lack of progress in negotiations. I believe that unless meaningful bargaining resumes, they will begin re-routing cargo.”
The ILA had no immediate comment on Capo’s letter.
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