The International Longshoremen’s Association and the New York Shipping Association tentatively agreed on a local contract that, if ratified, likely means East and Gulf Coast ports will avoid a work stoppage this year.
The ILA and NYSA issued a joint statement saying they had reached “a settlement that both sides agree will protect ILA members into the future and will allow NYSA-member shippers and carriers to remain competitive in the marketplace.”
The six-year contract covering New York-New Jersey dockworkers still requires rank-and-file ratification, along with a tentative agreement the ILA and United States Maritime Alliance reached last month on a Maine-to-Texas master contract.
The ILA-USMX agreement was contingent on completion of supplemental local contracts, and on ratification by both sides. Local contracts cover work rules, staffing, pensions and other port-specific issues.
Details on the ILA-NYSA agreement will be released Tuesday to the union’s New York-New Jersey delegates before the ILA’s 200-member wage scale committee meets in Tampa to review the coastwide contract.
The ILA and NYSA said some local contract items “need further refinement,” but officials said those could be worked out in Tampa.
The New York-New Jersey contract was considered the most difficult of the local contracts. The NYSA sought to change what it described as archaic work rules and staffing levels, some of which predate containerization.
NYSA President Joseph Curto wouldn’t discuss contract details but said, “I believe the new agreement sets the stage for the type of changes we were hoping to achieve in New York.”
The ILA said that after next week’s meetings, it hopes to schedule a date for rank-and-file votes on both the coastwide master contract and supplemental local agreements.
The union and employers have completed bargaining on local contracts in several ports, and are reportedly close to agreement in others.
The ILA and USMX had set a Friday deadline for completion of local contracts. That deadline was set so the union and employers would know where things stand before the wage scale meetings. Management officials also will be present for the Tampa meetings.
Both sides in the New York-New Jersey negotiations described the talks as an up-and-down process. Bargaining culminated with four days of intense sessions this week in Newark, N.J.
Failure to reach a deal covering the 4,500 ILA dockworkers in New York-New Jersey port would have jeopardized ratification of the master contract, and would have renewed 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.