Representatives from the International Longshoremen’s Association and U.S. Maritime Alliance (USMX) have approved a tentative six-year master contract.
"I am extremely pleased to announce that today the parties have approved their tentative agreement for a successor master agreement," said U.S. Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service Director George H. Cohen, in a statement released on Wednesday afternoon. "In doing so, the parties have successfully concluded lengthy, complex and understandably sometimes contentious negotiations concerning a multitude of economic and job related issues. Mutual respect, good old fashioned ‘roll up your sleeves’ hard work and applying innovative problem solving skills ultimately prevailed.”
Cohen said the agreement will be submitted to the membership of each group for ratification and "paves the way for six years of stable labor-management relations covering all the Atlantic and Gulf Coast ports."
The announcement came after 200-plus members of the ILA's Wage Scale Committee, meeting in Tampa voted Tuesday night to recommend approval of the six-year agreement. The contract now goes to ILA’s 14,500 members and USMX's members for ratification.
The agreement comes a week after the ILA and the New York Shipping Association reached a tentative agreement on a local contract covering work rules and other issues for the 3,250 ILA workers at the Port of New York and New Jersey.
"We're obviously pleased we were able to reach an agreement with the ILA and now look forward to the final ratification votes and completion of local bargaining," USMX Chairman and Chief Executive Officer James A. Capo said. "Given the industry's essential role in the U.S. economy, it’s vitally important that we’ve resolved our differences and have come to an agreement, preventing any disruption of port operations."
"Our ILA Wage Scale delegates have achieved a great contract for the rank-and-file members we represent," ILA President Harold Daggett added. "Our union worked hard for over a year to bring home a landmark agreement that I am sure our members will ratify."
The master contract, which must also be approved by the container carriers, terminal operators and port associations that make up USMX’s membership, includes three $1-an-hour wage increases in 2014, 2016 and again in 2017, the final year of the contract. Starting pay for new employees would stay at $20 an hour, but they would reach the top wage scale in six years instead of the current nine years.
On the issue of container royalties, the contract ensures that for the next six years carriers will fund the annual royalty payments at $211 million, the amount paid in 2011, plus up to an additional $14 million for administrative expenses. Employers and the ILA will share equally any container royalties that exceed $225 million.
Other provisions of the master contract include:
- A $1-an-hour increase in the contribution by employers to local fringe benefit funds, which include pension plans.
- An agreement to protect the jobs of workers displaced by the introduction of new technology and automation at the ports.
- A provision to promote continued ILA jurisdiction over chassis maintenance and repair work within the marine terminals and port areas covered by the contract.
The master contract would replace the agreement that expired on Sept. 30, 2012. Negotiations on a new contract began a year ago. Both sides had since agreed twice to extend the contract and to continue bargaining with the assistance of federal mediators.
Since 1977, negotiations with the ILA have resulted in nine new contracts without a strike or coast-wide work stoppage.
Joseph Curto, president of the New York Shipping Association, said his group and the ILA bargaining committees also on Wednesday "reached an agreement on a new six year contract; subject to ratification by the full memberships of NYSA and the ILA locals in New York."
He said the agreement will be presented to the ILA's New York wage scale delegates on Thursday morning.
Jonathan Gold, vice president at the National Retail Federation, said his group was pleased that the two sides were able to come to agreement without any disruption to the supply chain of retailers and expressed hope that ratification of the contract would happen very quickly. - Chris Dupin