A federal mediator said negotiations on a new International Longshoremen’s Association contract would resume this week following “good progress” in five days of talks that ended Saturday.
“I am pleased to announce that five days of productive negotiations between the parties concluded on Saturday and that negotiations will resume (this) week under the auspices of the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service,” FMCS Director George H. Cohen said in a prepared statement Sunday.
Cohen commended the ILA and United States Maritime Alliance “for their hard work and commitment to this process. The parties are making good progress on a number of difficult issues at the full committee and subcommittee levels.”
The FMCS would not comment further, but the talks’ resumption is viewed a positive sign for the negotiations. Cargo interests and carriers are eager for an agreement that avoids a work stoppage at East and Gulf Coast ports.
The mediator became involved after negotiations broke down Aug. 22, and helped get the talks back on track. The ILA and USMX agreed last month to extend the contract for 90 days, averting a threatened strike at the original Sept. 30 contract expiration.
Key issues in the negotiations include management efforts to address decades-old work rules and pay practices that require high staffing levels and raise overtime costs, especially in the Port of New York and New Jersey.
Many of those provisions are in local agreements that supplement USMX’s coastwide master contract. Bargaining on the New York-New Jersey local contract is planned for later this week between the ILA and the New York Shipping Association.
The ILA hasn't had a coastwide work stoppage since a 1977 strike that targeted container, roll-on, roll-off and barge-carrying ships.