The International Longshoremen’s Association and the U.S. Maritime Alliance (USMX) said Thursday they had “reached an agreement in principle on issues involving the introduction of new technology and automation and maintenance and repair of chassis within marine terminals and at off-pier facilities at the East and Gulf coast ports.”
Talks will continue today in Delray Beach, Fla., where each side will offer responses to demands or positions on other issues made in earlier meetings.
“We had a productive session in Florida,” ILA President Harold J. Daggett and USMX Chairman and Chief Executive Officer James A. Capo said in a joint statement. “We’re pleased that we were able to resolve some important issues and look forward to continuing bargaining to reach agreement on the remaining issues in the current negotiations.”
Details on the agreement were not given, but Daggett had said earlier this year that he had four main issues addressed in the talks - the use of technology at terminals that has the potential to displace ILA jobs, guaranteeing ILA workers continue to maintain and repair chassis even as many shipping companies pool their equipment or sell it to companies not in the shipping industry, preserving ILA jurisdiction over waterfront jobs, and weighing arriving containers for safety reasons and so the ILA receives full compensation on weight-based container "royalties."
Capo and Daggett also directed management and ILA locals to begin bargaining on local port issues.
In the joint statement Daggett and Capo noted that since 1977 the two sides have successfully negotiated nine new master contracts without any disruption in operations. The current contract, which expires Sept. 30, took effect in 2004 and was extended for two years in 2010.
Their statement seemed designed, at least in part, to calm the jitters of shippers planning the movement of goods for the coming so-called “peak season” of Christmas merchandise. Major groups representing retailers—the National Retail Federation and Retail Industry Leaders Association sent letters to the two men earlier this month urging an agreement. NRF asked if a final contract is not reached that both sides keep the ports operating while negotiations continue.
“The East and Gulf coasts ports are crucial to the health of the nation’s economy and we take seriously our responsibility to reaching an agreement without any disruption in the supply chain and operation of the 14 ports,” Capo and Daggett said.
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