Representatives of the International Longshoremen’s Association and United States Maritime Alliance resumed negotiations today in an effort to head off a threatened Maine-to-Texas strike at year-end.
ILA wage-scale delegates voted last week to authorize union president Harold Daggett to call a strike if there’s no agreement when the union’s contract expires Dec. 29. Daggett said last week that if the two sides can make headway on the issue, he’ll call off the threatened strike.
Today’s negotiations are focused on container royalties, which have emerged as a key sticking point in the bargaining. The ILA is resisting USMX’s proposal to cap worker payouts from container royalties at existing levels, which average $15,500, and use the excess to fund other ILA benefits. USMX also has proposed to eliminate royalties for new hires.
Besides royalties, contract issues include management proposals to provide local negotiators with more flexibility to address work rules that require high staffing levels, particularly in the high-cost Port of New York and New Jersey.
The coastwide contract already has been extended once, for 90 days past Sept. 30. As the new deadline approaches, shippers are growing nervous about the possibility of a year-end work stoppage.
Last week, 68 trade associations urged the ILA and USMX to continue negotiating until a deal is reached even beyond the current deadline of December 29. The National Retail Federation on Monday urged President Obama to seek an injunction under the Taft-Hartley Act if necessary to keep East and Gulf ports open.