Most shippers expect to decide by midsummer whether to divert cargo from the East and Gulf coasts to avoid possible longshore labor problems this fall, according to a Journal of Commerce poll.
The poll sought to gauge shippers’ contingency plans for the Sept. 30 expiration of the International Longshoremen’s Association contract, their plans for diverting cargo, and whether they consider labor problems likely. The poll, conducted June 22-23, drew 232 anonymous responses.
More than two-thirds of the respondents (158, or 68.1 percent) said they had contingency plans. One-fifth (48, or 20.6 percent) said they already had diverted cargo. Among those who had not diverted cargo, more than half said they planned to do so by the end of July.
Most respondents said they considered labor disruptions at least somewhat likely. More than one-fourth (62, or 26.7 percent) said they considered disruptions very likely. More than half (131, or 56.4 percent) considered disruptions somewhat likely. Thirty-nine respondents, or 16.8 percent, said they viewed disruptions as unlikely.
Shipper concerns increased last month when ILA President Harold Daggett said negotiations were stalled while the management group, United States Maritime Alliance, refused to accept union demands for job guarantees in exchange for automation. USMX President James Capo responded that Daggett was setting preconditions on the talks and appeared “less than committed” to good-faith bargaining.
The ILA and USMX are scheduled to resume negotiations this week when the union’s 200-member wage scale committee meets in Delray Beach, Fla. The ILA has not had a coastwide strike since 1977.