New Jersey clerical employees of Evergreen Shipping Agency (America) remain on the job following the declaration of an impasse in negotiations with the International Longshoremen’s Association on a contract to replace one that expired Friday.
The company said no services have been affected.
Robert Levy, president of ILA Local 1964, said the union is reviewing its options but has no immediate plans to walk out. In 2003 the local disrupted Evergreen Marine’s services in East Coast ports with a 28-day strike over unionization of the company’s New York-New Jersey port captains, who plan vessel stowage.
The clerical workers’ contract that expired Friday was signed in 2006 after federal courts upheld a National Labor Relations Board order for the company to negotiate a contract for 115 office workers. The NLRB overturned the results of a 2003 referendum in which the workers narrowly rejected ILA representation.
In negotiations for a new contract, Evergreen and the ILA were far apart on economic issues. Evergreen, which has had layoffs and a salary freeze for its non-union employees, sought concessions it said were needed to deal with a projected $23 million loss for the company’s U.S. agency this year.
Evergreen Shipping Agency (America) said it laid off 149 supervisors and non-union employees this year “because of financial losses and anticipated continuing decline in business based on the global economic crisis.” The company said the ILA refused to agree to similar staff cuts for union-represented employees.
Levy said the sticking point that led to the impasse involved seniority for 13 Taiwanese employees working in the United States under special visas. Evergreen wanted the workers’ seniority to include previous service in Taiwan. The ILA insisted that their seniority should date to when they went to work for the U.S.-based entity, which would put them first in line for layoffs based on seniority.
Local 1964 has asked the NLRB to declare Evergreen guilty of unfair labor practices for including the Taiwanese workers in the union bargaining unit, and to clarify which employees qualify for ILA representation. Levy said that if the NLRB sides with the ILA on the unfair-labor-practices charge, the company could not replace employees during a strike.
An Evergreen spokeswoman said the company was “hopeful that Local 1964 will comprehend the seriousness of the worldwide economic crisis and its impact on revenue-producing business for the maritime industry.”
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