Shot Across The Bow

After years of fits and starts, ocean carriers finally have warmed to the idea of sharing equipment in chassis pools. Harold Daggett hasn’t.

Daggett is executive vice president of the International Longshoremen’s Association and head of the ILA’s maintenance and repair local in the Port of New York and New Jersey. Where others see improved safety and efficiency from chassis pools, he sees lost ILA jobs.

“We’re going to fight it,” he said. “We have the right to follow the work that we’ve historically done on the terminal. What they’re doing is starting these pools but not asking us to come in and do the work.”

Daggett is a powerful figure within the ILA. His declaration of war could put the dockworker union on a collision course with a growing movement toward shared chassis in U.S. ports and inland areas.

That would be unfortunate. Chassis pools already have shown great potential to reduce costs and congestion, improve terminal operations, and standardize maintenance and repair procedures for compliance with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s new roadability rules.

Daggett says carriers are trying to avoid ILA labor or reduce manpower by centralizing maintenance and repair that’s now scattered over separate terminals. He notes that the union’s master contract gives the ILA jurisdiction over M&R work that ILA members historically have done at terminals.

The contract, however, goes on to state that the jurisdictional guarantee covers work that “is moved off the marine terminal by the terminal operator or by a signatory carrier to facilities in the port area” — which would seem to permit carriers to set up pools outside port areas. Indeed, many chassis in the new inland pools will never touch a port.

Daggett insists, though, that such inland pools would require the application of technology, and that the ILA contract requires “prior consultation” with the union on new technology. He said he didn’t learn of Maersk’s plans until he read about them in The Journal of Commerce.

Maersk responded that its pool initiative “is in absolute compliance” with the contract. The carrier said the ILA will retain its current M&R jurisdiction in the New York-New Jersey-Pennsylvania region and that as the broader pool is launched regionally in the next three months, Maersk “will continue to proactively consult with various stakeholders,” including labor.

Daggett remains “very upset.” He said he’s ready to press his fight in arbitration and the courts, and warned that the union will insist on “thorough inspection” of chassis delivered to ILA-staffed terminals for loading with a container.

“This is work that belongs to the union, and they’re bypassing us,” he said. “So I’m going to have to get in the fight and see where it goes.”

He also said he’s determined to raise the issue in current negotiations between the ILA and waterfront management, which have been discussing a two-year extension of the Atlantic and Gulf dockworkers’ contract that expires Sept. 30, 2010.

And shippers beware: Daggett said if he doesn’t succeed, he’ll push to delay negotiations until the contract’s expiration next year.

Joseph Bonney is executive editor of The Journal of Commerce. He can be contacted at 973-848-7139, or at jbonney@joc.com.

 

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