Negotiations between the International Longshoremen’s Association and waterfront employers are expected to resume this month as the parties continue their efforts to wrap up a Maine-to-Texas contract by year-end.
The ILA and United States Maritime Alliance agreed in September to extend their negotiations for 90 days past the original Sept. 30 expiration of their coastwide master contract.
The extension averted a threatened strike at the height of the pre-holiday import peak season. However, with the new expiration date of Dec. 29 drawing near, shippers again are growing nervous about the possibility of a work stoppage.
The ILA and USMX aren’t commenting on the talks, which are being supervised by the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service.
After two days of meetings last month, the FMCS said union and management committees would continue the negotiation process through meetings of committees to discuss specific contract issues.
Along with the coastwide master contract, the ILA and employers are negotiating supplemental local and regional contracts covering work rules, pensions, and other port-specific issues.
The most difficult of those local contracts involves the Port of New York and New Jersey, where the New York Shipping Association is seeking changes in work rules and practices that inflate pay and overtime costs.
The ILA and NYSA had scheduled a series of meetings during the last couple of weeks to discuss issues affecting specific union crafts including longshoremen, mechanics and clerks.
Those meetings were interrupted by Hurricane Sandy, which disrupted port operations and caused widespread damage and power outages in the New York-New Jersey region. With post-hurricane recovery under way, the parties are expected to schedule new meetings later this month.
Any agreement on a master contract would have to be approved by the union’s 200-member wage scale committee before submission to a membership referendum. No meeting of the wage scale committee has been scheduled.
The ILA-USMX coastwide contract covers approximately 15,000 workers in East and Gulf Coast ports. The union hasn’t had a coastwide work stoppage since 1977, but shipper fears were fanned earlier this year when ILA President Harold Daggett said a strike was possible.