The International Longshoremen's Association (ILA) and the United States Maritime Alliance (USMX), the management group that negotiates the master contract for dockworkers on the East and Gulf coasts, ended two days of talks Friday by issuing a statement expressing confidence they will reach agreement on a new contract before the current one expires on Sept. 30.
At the conclusion of an initial "wage scale" meeting in Tampa, Fla., ILA President Harold J. Daggett and James A. Capo, chief executive officer of USMX issued a joint statement that read "we had a productive exchange of ideas that will give us a good start toward negotiating contract sooner, rather than later, in 2012."
"Both sides recognize the importance of the East and Gulf Coast ports to the nation's economy and remain committed to reaching an agreement without any disruption to port operations," they said.
A source said the two sides had decided to issue a joint statement, at least in part, to help put shippers at ease after a speech by Daggett in early March at the Transpacific Maritime Conference in Long Beach, Calif., in which he said the union might strike if certain demands were not met.
USMX and the ILA pointed out that since 1977 they have successfully negotiated nine new master contracts without any disruption to operations. The current contract took effect in 2004 and was extended for two years in 2010.
USMX represents employers of the East and Gulf coast longshore industry, including 24 container carrier members, including the 10 largest carriers worldwide, and every major marine terminal operator and port association on the East and Gulf coasts.
The ILA represents 15,000 members working at Atlantic and Gulf coast ports from Maine to Texas. - Chris Dupin