James A. Capo, chairman of the U.S. Maritime Alliance (USMX) which serves as the employer group negotiating a new contract with members of the International Longshoremen's Association, said today he is concerned about a lack of "meaningful bargaining" and that shippers may reroute cargo away from East and Gulf coast ports where ILA members work.
In a memo
to his members, Capo said he remains hopeful that a new contract can be achieved "without any disruption to the supply chain," but warned ILA President Harold Daggett "appears to be less-than-committed to engaging in meaningful bargaining that for decades has characterized our negotiations and successfully resulted in several new contracts."
The master contract between the ILA and USMX, which represents stevedoring companies and liner companies, expires at the end of September.
"We have now heard from the three largest associations representing our customers: the Retail Industry Leaders Association, the Waterfront Coalition, and the National Retail Federation. All have expressed concerns from their members regarding Mr. Daggett’s May 25, 2012 letter
to the ILA and the lack of progress in negotiations. I believe that unless meaningful bargaining resumes, they will begin re-routing cargo," Capo said.
He said Daggett has "put forth several demands, or 'hurdles,' as he calls them, but has adamantly refused to negotiate or even discuss these or any other issues at the bargaining table unless management first agrees to his demands. That’s hardly good faith bargaining, in which the process gives both sides an opportunity to voice their concerns and present their proposals."
Capo added "much of what Mr. Daggett is demanding would reduce productivity, increase congestion, and add unnecessary costs at the East and Gulf coast ports.
"For example, on the issue of technology, the ILA president is demanding that management guarantee a job for any worker, even if the new technology eliminates the need for the position. What he apparently fails to recognize is that the current collective bargaining agreement mandates that both sides negotiate over the impact new technology might have on the work force. Thus, issues like reassignment, retraining and severance would all be subject to negotiation."
Capo said "we must deploy new technology to modernize our ports so they can attract and handle increased volumes of cargo. That, in turn, will make the ports more competitive and help create more work and jobs for ILA members."
He explained, on average, ILA workers receive $124,138 a year or $50 per hour, more than double the $23.19 average for all U.S. union workers. And he said they pay no premiums and minimal co-pays and deductibles for a healthcare plan that's better than most U.S. employers provide their workers.
He said another ILA demand – that chassis pool operators join USMX and agree to be bound by the master contract – would be impossible to achieve because USMX cannot legally force the pool operators to become members of the alliance.
"In any event, the pool operators have already agreed to continue to use ILA members to maintain and repair chassis and to honor ILA jurisdiction where it is currently in place. We have no reason to believe they will not continue to honor that agreement," Capo added.
Daggett's demand that all import containers be weighed at the pier before being released "would create more unneeded work, add unnecessary expense and increase congestion at the ports," Capo said.
"I stand ready to engage in substantive negotiations with the ILA and would urge the union president not to impose any preconditions on negotiations before coming to the bargaining table," he said.
The ILA had no immediate comment on Capo's memo. Daggett is scheduled to speak next week at the International Longshore and Warehouse Union's convention in San Diego. - Chris Dupin