Union Gives, Takes in Jaxport Jobs Deal

Union Gives, Takes in Jaxport Jobs Deal

A dockworker contract approved this week for Hanjin Shipping's automated container terminal in Jacksonville will reduce the size of work gangs but place crane technicians under International Longshoremen's Association jurisdiction.

"We were trying to get more people, but the main thing we were trying to do was protect our jurisdiction. I think we did a great job with that," said Charles Spencer, Jacksonville-based executive vice president of the ILA's South Atlantic and Gulf District.

Spencer said the Jacksonville terminal, scheduled to open in 2014, will resemble APM Terminals' Portsmouth, Va., facility, where containers are shuttled across the terminal yard by driverless, computer-guided cranes. Hanjin opened a similar automated terminal last month at Algeciras, Spain.

Union touchiness about job cuts has slowed adoption of automation at U.S. container ports. The ILA's coastwide master contract frees employers to introduce labor-saving technology but permits the union to negotiate the impact on jobs.

Last year the Jacksonville Port Authority halted design work on the Hanjin terminal until the company and ILA could agree on staffing rules. Hanjin will operate the terminal under a 30-year lease from the port.

Spencer said that under the deal announced this week, the new terminal will hire 18 workers for each dockside crane used to load or unload a ship. Less-automated terminals at the port use 27 workers with a ship's first crane and 26 with each additional crane. Existing terminals also hire seven truck drivers per gang. Hanjin's automated yard cranes will eliminate those jobs.

In exchange, Spencer said, Hanjin agreed to guarantee full-time work to at least six ILA workers as crane technicians and seven as yard workers.

Spencer said Hanjin's agreement to hire ILA crane technicians was "a big win" for the union. At Jaxport's public terminals, crane technicians are non-ILA port authority employees. Spencer said the ILA plans to set up a program to train technicians for the Hanjin jobs.

He said that as the Hanjin terminal grows toward its design capacity of 750,000 20-foot equivalent units a year, additional technicians may be needed. "We have guarantees for six. I suspect that number will grow greatly as they move toward having ships working 24 hours a day," he said.

-- Contact Joseph Bonney at jbonney@joc.com.