Employers ratified a six-year master contract for International Longshoremen’s Association members at East and Gulf Coast ports, giving final approval to a deal that ILA members approved last week.
Members of United States Maritime Alliance, the coastwide umbrella organization for 43 carriers, terminal operators and port associations, ratified the contract in a meeting Wednesday in Newark, N.J.
Some carriers are known to be dissatisfied with the outcome of the negotiations, but USMX ratification was expected after the ILA’s rank and file gave 88 percent approval to the coastwide agreement last week.
A few supplemental local contracts covering work rules and other port-specific issues remain incomplete. The Virginian-Pilot reported Wednesday that the ILA and employers had tentatively agreed on a contract for the largest of those ports, Hampton Roads.
Workers in those and a few other ports, including Philadelphia, Baltimore and Mobile, approved the master contract last week and will vote separately on their local agreements.
The crucial local contract covering the Port of New York and New Jersey has been ratified by the ILA and the New York Shipping Association.
The NYSA secured changes in decades-old provisions that required high staffing levels, allowed workers to be paid for hours-long breaks, and permitted other practices that raise costs and undermine productivity.
David F. Adam, chairman and CEO of USMX, said the master contract’s approval will be welcomed by ports, their customers, and others who had been sweating the possibility of the ILA’s first coastwide strike since 1977.
“The final approval of the master contract will come as welcome news to shippers, shipping companies, port operators and the tens of thousands of American workers whose livelihood depends on the smooth operation of the ports,” he said.
The contract shortens from nine to six years the progression from the $20 hourly starting pay to top scale, currently $32 for straight-time pay. The contract also guarantees that carriers will fund the annual container royalty payments at their 2011 level of $211 million, plus up to $14 million for administrative expenses, and divide any excess royalties with the ILA.
Other contract provisions protect the jobs of workers displaced by the introduction of new technology and automation, and promote continued ILA jurisdiction over chassis maintenance and repair work within the marine terminals and port areas covered by the contract.
Adam praised FMCS Director George H. Cohen and his team for helping keep the negotiations on track. “When the parties couldn’t find solutions, Mr. Cohen came up with suggestions that kept us at the bargaining table, which in the end led to agreement on the master contract,” Adam said.