The International Longshoremen’s Association and United States Maritime Alliance ended three days of negotiations with optimism about a strike-free contract for East and Gulf Coast dockworkers.
“We’re looking a whole lot better than we were two weeks ago,” said James Capo, chairman and CEO of USMX. “We still have difficult issues to work through, but we have momentum. We’re moving in the right direction.”
ILA President Harold Daggett agreed. “I’m much more confident now that we’ll have a contract,” he said.
The ILA and USMX are seeking a six-year contract.
Daggett and Capo spoke in a brief joint interview after Friday’s negotiating session involving the ILA’s 200-member wage scale committee in Delray Beach, Fla.
No date has been set for the next round of full-blown negotiations, which will follow interim meetings by smaller ILA-USMX committees that will discuss specific issues.
Daggett and Capo have directed local officials to begin negotiations immediately on supplemental local or regional agreements covering pensions, work rules and other port-specific issues.
The current coastwide contract expires Sept. 30. Many shippers said that if this week’s talks didn’t show progress, they planned soon to begin accelerating shipments or diverting cargo to the West Coast.
On Thursday, the ILA and USMX reported agreement in principle on two key issues, technology and ILA jurisdiction over chassis maintenance and repair.
Daggett and Capo declined to discuss those agreements in detail, but the ILA president said they were “very significant.”
The two sides agreed the ILA would fill any new jobs created by technology, and to establish a process under which any ILA workers displaced by technology will be eligible for limited pay guarantees.
Daggett and Capo described the guarantees as a limited “bridge” to cushion the impact of technology, and said displaced workers would have to be available for retraining and reassignment in order to qualify for payments.
They emphasized the new program does not represent a new version of the costly guaranteed annual income program that was instituted during containerization’s early days. GAI was phased out in the 1980s and 1990s.
The agreement on chassis addresses ILA concerns about job losses from ocean carriers’ shift of chassis fleets to leasing companies not covered by the union’s contract.
Major leasing companies that already have taken over carrier chassis have promised to continue to hire ILA labor and respect the union’s existing work jurisdiction.
The new agreement on chassis contains language designed to preserve the union’s jurisdiction over its traditional chassis maintenance and repair work in marine terminals and port areas.
The agreement also would require future acquirers of carriers' chassis to pledge in purchase agreements to continue to hire ILA labor that now performs the work. An estimated one-third of international intermodal chassis are still owned by ocean carriers.