The International Longshoremen’s Association and employers have set a new March 8 deadline for negotiation of local contracts that supplement a coastwide master agreement covering dockworkers at East and Gulf Coast ports.
When the ILA and United States Maritime Alliance reached tentative agreement earlier this month on a Maine-to-Texas coastwide contract, they set a “soft” target of March 1 for completing local contracts covering port-specific issues.
The ILA and USMX extended the deadline by a week in order to give local negotiators a final chance to complete bargaining on local agreements before the ILA’s 200-member wage scale committee meets March 12-14 in Tampa.
Although the ILA and USMX agreed Feb. 1 on a six-year master contract for East and Gulf Coast ports, their agreement was contingent on settlement of supplemental local contracts, and on ratification by both sides.
Several ports have completed bargaining on their local contracts covering work rules, pensions, and other port-specific issues. Negotiators reportedly are close to agreement at other ports.
The major exception is New York-New Jersey, the focal point of the negotiations since they opened nearly a year ago.
The New York Shipping Association is seeking to change what it describes as “antiquated” work rules and staffing requirements, including provisions requiring work gangs of 15 to 16 members when only nine or 10 are actually working at a time. The ILA is resisting those changes.
The ILA and NYSA have been meeting frequently to discuss possible compromises. They plan three days of intensive bargaining next week in an effort to reach a deal on work rules and staffing by the March 8 deadline.
Stakes are high. Agreement on a New York-New Jersey local contract would clear the way for ILA’s wage-scale delegates to recommend rank-and-file ratification of the master contract. Failure to reach a deal could jeopardize ratification, and renew the threat of labor disruptions.
The ILA-USMX contract, originally set to expire last Sept. 30, has been extended twice after threatened strikes that forced shippers to pad inventories, divert cargo or implement other contingency plans.
Since the tentative agreement on the coastwide contract, ILA officials have been meeting with local union members to explain the agreement’s terms.
The master contract would raise pay, allow new hires to advance to top pay in six years instead of the current nine, continue free medical benefits, compensate workers whose jobs are displaced by automation, and tighten ILA jurisdiction over chassis repairs and other work.
The agreement also would guarantee that carriers’ tonnage-based container royalties would remain at least at the $211 million they paid in 2011, which split additional revenue between the ILA and USMX. The royalties support annual cash payouts to ILA members.