The International Longshoremen’s Association said its members overwhelmingly approved a new, six-year master contract.
The contract covers some 14,500 workers at 14 ports that handle containerized cargo along the U.S. Atlantic and Gulf coasts.
The settlement ends more than a year of negotiations between employers, represented by the U.S. Maritime Alliance (USMX) and ILA. With the assistance of the offices of the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Services, the ILA and USMX negotiated well beyond the original contract deadline of Sept. 30, 2012, agreeing to a series of extensions that kept ports open.
USMX membership consists of 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
Along with the master contract, local agreements at most ports along the Atlantic and Gulf coasts also were ratified by ILA members, including one with the New York Shipping Association. Negotiations are continuing in the ports of Baltimore, Philadelphia and Hampton Roads and the union said those agreements are expected to be completed early next week.
ILA President Harold J. Daggett, who served as chief negotiator for the union for the first time since he was elected president in July 2011, said he was “thrilled this master contract was ratified by an overwhelming margin.”
“We’re obviously pleased that ILA members voted to ratify the Master Contract,” David F. Adam, USMX’s new chairman and chief executive officer, said. “It’s in the best interest of both sides, our customers and the country that the ports continue to operate without disruption and that’s precisely what this agreement will do for the next six years.”
Adam succeeded James A. Capo, who led USMX during the negotiations and retired on April 1.
The approval is “welcomed news to the nation’s retailers, who have been on pins-and-needles for the past year due to the possibility of a supply chain disruption along the 14 East and Gulf Coast container ports,” said Jonathan Gold, a vice president at the National Retail Federation. “Supply chain stakeholders, both importers and exporters – from agriculture and manufacturing to retailing and wholesaling – applaud today’s vote.”
“The confidence displayed by the members of the ILA in their affirmative vote is an indication to management that we will cooperatively move forward and make great strides in improving the Port of New York and New Jersey’s global competitiveness, as well as foster a mutually beneficial work environment,” said Joseph C. Curto, president of the New York Shipping Association.
He thanked the leadership of USMX, specifically former CEO Capo, for the “commithment to getting the job done on the master contract and for (Capo's) leadership through what were not always simple negotiations.”
The union said USMX members will vote to ratify the master contract on April 17.
NYSA said the master and local contracts in New York were approved by a three to one margin.
“We have made positive advancements in which both management and labor can be proud,” Curto said. “This contract permits us to begin an evolutionary progression of significant change that will improve the practices for working ships, hiring labor and paying key staff persons.
“We very much look forward to working with ILA President Harold Daggett and his team in implementing these far reaching and positive contract provisions,” he added.
ILA members will see wage increases totaling $3 an hour spread out over the life of the agreement that will bring the top hourly rate of pay to $35 an hour by the end of the contract. ILA members who make $20 per hour on entering the union will see the time needed to reach the top wage reduced from nine to six years. So a new ILA member earning a base pay of $20 an hour at the start of the six-year contract will increase to $35 an hour by the end of the contract.
The union said contract language strongly protects ILA workers who have been displaced due to new technology and automation and will restrict the outsourcing or subcontracting of ILA jobs to non-ILA employers. Specifically, the union said it will preserve its chassis maintenance and repair jurisdiction and expand major damage criteria to protect even more jobs. - Chris Dupin