The International Longshoremen’s Association and United States Maritime Alliance moved closer to a contract agreement with an agreement in principle on two top issues — new technology and chassis maintenance and repair.
The union and USMX, representing employers at East and Gulf Coast ports, will continue negotiations Friday on other issues.
“We had a productive session,” ILA President Harold J. Daggett and USMX Chairman/CEO James A.Capo said in a joint statement. “We’re pleased that we were able to resolve some important issues and look forward to continuing bargaining to reach agreement on the remaining issues in the current negotiations.”
With the Sept. 30 expiration of the ILA’s master contract only 10 weeks away, importers and exporters are anxious for a contract settlement.
The National Retail Federation and Retail Industry Leaders Association have publicly urged the ILA and USMX to reach an agreement that spares importers from having to book shipments early or divert cargo to the West Coast.’
The joint statement by Daggett and Capo said the two sides recognize the high stakes. The ILA-USMX master contract covers 14,500 dockworkers in 14 container ports from New England to Texas.
Daggett and Capo directed management and ILA locals to begin bargaining on supplemental local port issues.
“The East and Gulf Coast ports are crucial to the health of the nation’s economy, and we take seriously our responsibility to reaching agreement without any disruption in the supply chain and operation of the 14 ports.” Daggett and Capo said.
Although details weren’t released, the agreement in principle on technology reportedly assures the union of jurisdiction over new jobs created by technology, and guarantees a certain level of pay for workers whose jobs are displaced by technology.
On chassis, the union reportedly won assurances that its members will continue to perform any M&R work transferred by carriers to third parties.
The ILA hasn’t had a coastwide strike since 1977, but shippers were unnerved last spring when Daggett identified several issues, including automation and chassis, as potential strike issues.
The ILA’s current contract took effect in 2004 and was extended in 2009.
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