Longshore Workers Reject Virginia Wage Cuts

Longshore Workers Reject Virginia Wage Cuts

International Longshoremen’s Association members in Hampton Roads refused to accept lower pay for handling uncontainerized cargo and for handling containers that move on a barge shuttle between the port and Richmond, Va.

Local ILA leaders had supported the pay cuts, which members rejected in a referendum Thursday. Management had proposed the concessions in an effort to attract breakbulk cargo and to expand the barge shuttle service by reducing its costs.

Port officials had hoped to expand the Norfolk-Richmond barge shuttle to include an intra-harbor shuttle moving containers among terminals in Norfolk, Portsmouth and Newport News. Virginia officials have hoped to attract more breakbulk cargo, a market the port largely abandoned after deciding 30 years ago to concentrate on containerized cargo.

ILA members rejected the breakbulk pay cuts by a 557-480 margin and the lower wage for the barge service by a 775-323 vote, the Norfolk Virginian-Pilot reported.

The proposed reductions would have been to $16 an hour, the newspaper reported. The changes would not have affected pay scales for cargo on container ships, which are covered by the ILA’s coastwide master contract and range from $20 for new hires to $31 for experienced workers, plus annual container royalty bonuses for qualifying workers.

Breakbulk cargo is not covered by the master contract. Pay scales for non-containerized cargo vary widely by port and cargo and are generally lower than pay for handling containers. Port officials and local ILA leaders said the pay cuts were needed to compete with other ports’ breakbulk costs.