The International Longshoremen's Association and U.S. Maritime Alliance reached a tentative agreement for a new six-year master contract late last Friday, avoiding the possibility of a strike later this week, but negotiations over local issues continue.
George H. Cohen, director of the U.S. Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service, which has been assisting the two sides in contract talks, said "the tentative agreement is subject to the ratification procedures of both parties and, as well, to agreements being achieved in a number of local union negotiations."
Cohen added: "Those local negotiations are ongoing and will continue without interruption to any port operation. Out of respect for the parties’ ratification processes, and consistent with the agency’s long-standing confidentiality policy, we will not disclose any details concerning the substantive provisions that have been reached.”
"I know ILA members will be satisfied with the results of our
negotiating efforts thus far," said ILA President Harold J. Daggett. "We
turn our full attention now to achieving equally successful local
contract agreements, and we look forward to our members expressing their
voice in the ratification process of the full contract package."
In a statement released by the union on Sunday, Daggett said "although the two
sides cannot release complete details of this still unfinished contract,
I can assure my membership that the protections for our jurisdiction
and increased benefits and wages were achieved. We have come away from
these master contract negotiations with landmark agreements on
automation, protection of chassis work and powerful jurisdiction
"ILA will continue to work while local negotiations are taking place," said James Capo, the chairman and chief executive officer of the U.S. Maritime Alliance.
Jim McNamara, a spokesman for the union, said once local agreements are reached at all ports, the 200-plus ILA wage scale delegates will meet to recommend ratification to the full ILA membership.
McNamara said no deadline for those local negotiations has been announced.
Joseph Curto, president of the New York Shipping Association, which negotiates on behalf of employers in the Port of New York and New Jersey, said the local bargaining is ongoing and the goal is to have local bargaining complete by March 1.
The deal reached Friday prevents a work stoppage that loomed this week. The current contract between the ILA and its employers, represented by USMX, was originally due to expire Sept. 30, but was twice extended, first to late December, and then to Feb. 6. With the deal reached on Friday, ships will continue to work.
Some steamship lines, terminals, and railroads, which had been warning customers that they would refuse to accept cargo because of the possibility of a strike, were expected to undo those restrictions.
The ILA-USMX master contract covers more than 14,500 ILA members who handle containerized cargoes in 14 U.S. East and Gulf coast ports.
Shippers expressed some relief with the progress of the talks, but want the ILA and USMX to press forward.
The talks with the New York Shipping Association are seen as particularly important. Shipping and terminal executives say there is a need to reform work rules to make cargo handling at New York and New Jersey terminals more competitive with that at other ports.
“We urge the parties to quickly complete any outstanding negotiations, including local negotiations at each of the individual 14 ports, and quickly ratify the new labor agreement," said National Retail Federation President and Chief Executive Officer Matthew Shay in a statement Saturday morning.
“If the tentative agreement holds, the new labor contract will bring much-needed certainty and predictability to the supply chain for retailers, manufacturers, farmers and other industries that rely on the ports to move the nation’s commerce and trade," he added. - Chris Dupin