The International Longshoremen’s Association defended its pay levels and accused United States Maritime Alliance of misrepresenting wages and benefits for East and Gulf Coast dockworkers.
The ILA’s statement came in response to one by USMX Chairman/CEO James Capo following the breakdown of negotiations on a new coastwide contract. ILA President Harold Daggett said a strike is likely when the current contract expires Sept. 30.
The ILA and USMX abruptly suspended bargaining Wednesday after the union refused to discuss concessions that management says are needed to improve productivity and efficiency but that Daggett said would undo years of bargaining gains.
“USMX should stop the inflammatory rhetoric and return to the bargaining table with realistic demands,” the ILA statement said. “USMX should recognize that it cannot change overnight benefits that were achieved over many years of collective bargaining.”
The union said USMX was trying to “inflame the general public” with its statement that ILA workers average $124,138 a year in wages and benefits, and earn an average of $50 an hour.
The ILA said USMX’s numbers apply only to containerized cargo work under the master contract. The union has had lower wage scales for breakbulk shipments since 1986, when it agreed to concessions in response to non-ILA competition.
“Including the wages and benefits of those longshore workers who work breakbulk cargo would result in a substantially lower average, since this cargo is handled at lower wages and benefit levels,” the ILA said. “Likewise, the average hourly rate of $50 apparently includes straight time and overtime hours and once again includes only containerized cargo.”
The ILA said longshore labor is only 3 to 4 percent of a shipper’s total cost. The union noted that most dockworkers are hired by the day and aren’t paid if there is no work for them.
Employers entered this year’s negotiations determined to achieve improved productivity and efficiency, especially in the Port of New York and New Jersey, where USMX said one-third of ILA members make more than $208,000 a year in pay and benefits, not counting annual container royalty bonuses.
Those numbers include substantial amounts of overtime, the ILA noted. “USMX also does not mention that management representatives have testified at administrative hearings that management prefers to keep one employee on overtime rather than two workers on straight time, thereby resulting in these inflated annual wages,” it said.
That testimony came during hearings in 2010 before the Waterfront Commission of New York Harbor. Witnesses at the hearings testified that some ILA shop stewards and timekeepers in New York-New Jersey collected more than $400,000 a year and were paid for as much as 27 hours a day.
At those hearings, Daggett defended ILA workers’ pay levels, saying, “I wish all the members earned more than $400,000. Those guys work their asses off out there.”