Some New York-New Jersey dockworkers will delay their scheduled April 1 retirements in a stopgap move to ease a labor shortage at the port.
The International Longshoremen’s Association and the New York Shipping Association agreed to allow eligible workers to delay their retirements for up to six months and collect their pensions along with their pay.
NYSA President John Nardi said it’s not known how many of the approximately 188 eligible workers will accept the offer. The extensions would run until October, unless conditions allow employers to release the workers earlier.
The six-year local contract that the NYSA and ILA signed in 2013 allowed older workers to retire by April 1 with enhanced pensions. This provision was part of a complex agreement that also included a new shift system and other changes to boost productivity.
Industry officials are anxious to maintain staffing levels at terminals. Longshore labor shortages contributed to weeks of port-wide gridlock set off by the problem-plagued integration of a new operating system at Maher Terminals last summer.
Congestion returned this winter when terminals were hit with a series of blizzards that slowed work and stretched the capacity of the longshore workforce. Though delays have eased, drayage drivers are still dealing with long turn times.
Hiring of dockworkers in the port has been complicated by a bitter dispute between the industry and the Waterfront Commission of New York Harbor over the commission’s new rules for hiring dockworkers.
The industry and the Waterfront Commission have accused each other of delaying the hiring of 682 longshoremen and checkers that the NYSA and ILA have sought permission to add to the workforce.
The commission, which licenses dockworkers and regulates the size of the port’s longshore workforce, says it wants to increase diversity and is seeking to reduce the ILA’s traditional role in referring applicants.
The NYSA and ILA have filed a lawsuit seeking to block the commission from imposing the new rules. The commission has asked U.S. District Judge Susan Wigenton to dismiss the suit, and the two sides are awaiting her ruling.
Meanwhile, hiring of dockworkers is proceeding after months of delays. The commission recently authorized the hiring of 150 longshoremen and 75 checkers who would be the first of the 682 requested positions.
Most of the requested positions would fill existing vacancies or replace workers scheduled to retire this year under the new contract.
Commission officials have insisted that each group of job applicants reflect the NYSA-ILA contract’s hiring formula of 51 percent military veterans, 25 percent ILA referrals and 24 percent NYSA referrals. The commission said the first applicants included too many ILA referrals and too few veterans.
Statistics posted weekly on the NYSA’s website show that 120 workers have been hired and that more than 600 others are in other stages of a multistep process of interviews, employer screening, commission prequalification, employer certification and commission registration.