Representatives of the International Longshoremen’s Association and its New York-New Jersey employers planned to resume negotiations today on a local agreement that’s key to the coastwide master contract for East and Gulf Coast dockworkers.
The ILA and United States Maritime Alliance, the employers’ coastwide umbrella group, have set a Friday deadline for completion of local contracts covering work rules, staffing levels, pensions and other port-specific issues.
The Feb. 1 tentative agreement between the ILA and USMX on a Maine-to-Texas master contract was contingent on completion of local contracts and on ratification by both sides.
The ILA wage scale committee is scheduled to meet next Tuesday through Thursday in Tampa, Fla. Negotiators hope to have an agreement in place for a ratification vote. The wage scale committee comprises 200 delegates from East and Gulf ports.
The union and employers have completed bargaining on local contracts in several ports, and are reportedly close to agreement in others.
Since negotiations began last March, the focus has been on New York-New Jersey, where the NYSA is seeking to change what it describes as archaic work rules and staffing levels, some of which predate containerization.
Both sides in the New York-New Jersey negotiations have described them as an up-and-down process. Wednesday’s bargaining between the ILA and the New York Shipping Association continued into the night.
Completion of the local contracts for New York-New Jersey, the largest port on the East and Gulf coasts, 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 in New York-New Jersey would jeopardize ratification of the master contract, and could renew the threat of the ILA’s first coastwide work stoppage in 35 years.
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.