Technology emerged as a sticking point as the International Longshoremen's Association and Atlantic and Gulf waterfront management entered a second day of discussions on a possible contract extension of their coastwide master contract.
The ILA's 200-member wage scale committee, meeting in Orlando, heard from James Capo, chairman and CEO of United States Maritime Alliance, who discussed USMX's contract offer for ILA dockworkers handling containerized cargo.
The current contract doesn't expire till Sept. 30, 2010, but negotiations have begun early in hope of an agreement that would deter shippers from diverting cargo to avoid a work stoppage. Some in the ILA, including the insurgent Longshore Workers Coalition, have urged that negotiations be delayed until next year to give the economy a chance to recover.
USMX's proposed two-year extension would delay a pay increase scheduled for Oct. 1 at the start of the current contract's final year. However, the offer would immediately raise the $16 hourly wage for new hires to $20, and would provide top tiered workers with the delayed raise and begin phasing out tiered wages in 2012.
Reductions in the difference between the ILA's most experienced workers and those hired since the implementation of tiered wages in 1996 would be based on the newer workers' years of experience, with no minimum requirement for hours worked.
Under management's proposal, workers with 11 years of experience would be increased to top scale in 2012. Less-experienced workers would receive raises representing 25 to 75 percent of the difference between lower and higher tiered wages, and would reach top scale after their 11th year.
Phasing out tiered wages has been a key ILA demand, along with elimination of caps on container royalties that employers pay to fund dockworkers' annual bonuses and other benefits.
USMX, however, has refused to accept union demands that the implementation of new technology be halted during the extended contract period. Harold Daggett, the ILA's executive vice president, has sought contract language to prevent employers from implementing technology like that used in APM Terminals' highly automated terminal in Portsmouth, Va.
Contact Joseph Bonney at email@example.com.