Mediator Cites ‘Progress’ in ILA-USMX Talks

Mediator Cites ‘Progress’ in ILA-USMX Talks

A federal mediator said three days of bargaining on an East and Gulf Coast dockworker contract yielded progress and that the International Longshoremen’s Association and employers have agreed to continue negotiations.

The ILA and United States Maritime Alliance “made progress and have agreed that the negotiations will continue under our auspices,” said George H. Cohen, director of the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service.

In a brief prepared statement, Cohen said the FMCS would not comment further, “due to the sensitivity of these negotiations.”

The ILA and employers are trying to work out a deal before their latest contract extension expires Feb. 6. The contract originally was set to expire last Sept. 30 but has been extended twice.

No dates or locations were released for the next negotiations, but bargaining is expected to resume next week on local contracts between the ILA and the New York Shipping Association and other local employer groups.

Negotiations on a coastwide master contract between the ILA and USMX are expected to resume the following week.

Complete coverage of ILA-USMX negotiations

The latest contract extension, announced Dec. 28, averted a threatened year-end strike. Many shippers have continued the contingency plans they activated last month as a hedge against a port shutdown.

Shippers’ concerns spiked last week when the union walked out of negotiations with the New York Shipping Association, which is seeking work-rule changes in the ILA-NYSA local contract for the Port of New York and New Jersey.

Last week’s events did not prevent this week’s resumption of talks on a coastwide master contract. The negotiations, in Galloway, N.J., were attended by a 20-member ILA committee and a small group of USMX representatives.

The ILA and employers have said agreement on the coastwide contract is contingent on settlement of supplemental local contracts, the most contentious of which involves New York-New Jersey, where the NYSA is seeking changes in decades-old work practices that require high levels of relief staffing.

Local contracts deal with work rules and other port-specific issues. The coastwide master contract covers container and roll-on, roll-off wages, container royalties, medical benefits, automation, jurisdiction and other issues.

Contact Joseph Bonney at jbonney@joc.com and follow him at twitter.com/JosephBonney.