International Longshoremen’s Association officials and port employers told an industry forum that a standoff with the Waterfront Commission of New York Harbor over longshore hiring threatens to undermine productivity gains in a new ILA contract.
Dennis Daggett, president of the ILA’s Atlantic Coast District and of Local 1804-1, which represents maintenance and repair workers, complained that the Waterfront Commission is acting as an “umpire” in interpreting how contract provisions are implemented.
He urged New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie to intervene to halt what ILA and New York Shipping Association officials have criticized as undue interference in their collective bargaining. “We need his help. He is the only one who can get this done,” Daggett said.
Daggett spoke during a panel discussion at the annual New York-New Jersey Port Industry Day. He expanded on statements his father, ILA President Harold Daggett, made during a telephone interview Saturday with The Journal of Commerce.
ILA and New York Shipping Association officials last week criticized the Waterfront Commission’s plans for public hearings next month on longshore hiring, and accused the commission of interfering in collective bargaining.
The Waterfront Commission, which licenses workers and regulates the size of the longshore workforce, wants more women and minorities among job applicants. The agency has scheduled three days of public hearings next month on port hiring practices.
“The hearings will be self-evident,” said Commission Executive Director Walter Arsenault, who did not attend the industry forum. He declined to comment further.
The Waterfront Commission, a bi-state agency created in 1953 to combat crime on the New York-New Jersey docks, has previously said it is exercising its statutory responsibility to ensure that hiring is fair and nondiscriminatory.
The new six-year ILA-NYSA local contract sets productivity goals for terminals and the port, curtails round-the clock pay, and will implement a “relief gang” shift system after replacements are hired for 300 dockworkers set to take early retirement by next April.
The NYSA has asked the commission to authorize 682 new hires — 300 replacements for early retirees, and 382 additional workers to prevent a recurrence of labor shortages that contributed to last summer’s delays for cargo and trucks at port container terminals.
In addition to the 682 jobs requested by the ILA and NYSA, a standoff between the commission and the industry has stalled hiring of mechanics represented by Local 1804-1. Container terminals “need these people yesterday,” Dennis Daggett said.
He said the new ILA contract, signed last April after a year of rocky negotiations, will improve port productivity and help attract cargo. “But how can we implement the contract if we don’t have the people?” Daggett said.
Steve Knott, the ILA’s general vice president, echoed Daggett’s statements. “We sold these agreements to our membership with the idea that no one would interfere in our collective bargaining agreements,” Knott said.
Bernard Dudley, president of ILA Local 1233 in Newark, N.J., said the commission has delayed for two years the approval of an “in-house” move of workers from one gang to another at Maher Terminals. He said that in the past this has taken a week or less.
After the panel discussion, Daggett said the Waterfront Commission “wants to be the union, the employer, and a law enforcement agency. They’re not going to be happy unless they get to that point.”
NYSA President John Nardi and Jim Pelliccio, president of Port Newark Container Terminal, who also spoke on the Port Industry Day panel, said hiring new workers is crucial to the new contract’s productivity provisions.
Pelliccio said collective bargaining agreements “are only as good as your ability to implement and execute … The immediate and future need we have is to do just that. Certainly, we require adequate manning at the port, and we cannot allow that to get in the way of executing our contract.”