Joseph C. Curto, president of the New York Shipping Association, said Wednesday that management will address excessive staffing and overtime payments in labor negotiations with the International Longshoremen's Association.
NYSA and ILA are scheduled to start negotiating a new contract next week in Tampa, Fla., to replace an agreement that expires on Sept. 30.
Curto issued a statement in reaction to a report released by the Waterfront Commission of New York Harbor Tuesday. He said the report "is in part a condemnation of concessions made by management when the movement of goods changed from breakbulk to containers in the 1960s. While many of the work practices that are referred to in the commission’s report could at one time be rationalized, that is no longer the case.
"Over the years, and over many collectively bargained contracts, management has gained some savings and improvements," he explained. "There are no longer Guaranteed Annual Income payments, employers today enjoy flexibility in the deployment of labor from ship to ship and there is a tiered wage system in place, which has saved millions of dollars and in turn has permitted the employers to reinvest in new infrastructure, including terminal and environmental improvements.
“However, an area that remains to be addressed is the one highlighted by the Waterfront Commission report: excessive staffing and overtime payments that can no longer be sustained or rationalized. These practices, many of which have been in place for more than fifty years, have made the port unnecessarily expensive and less competitive," he said.
Curto said those issues should be addressed at the bargaining table - "not publicly in the political world and surely not in the press."
"Collective bargaining has always been a process of give and take," he added. "But in the current economic and competitive environment in the port industry today, our port faces significant risks. In order to retain our existing business, and therefore jobs, grow our port business, and maintain the status of the largest port on the East Coast, we must tackle inefficient work practices that make our port non-competitive."
Curto said NYSA will "address these issues during labor negotiations as part of a smart business plan; not because the Waterfront Commission thinks we should.
"The public policy of the United States calls for collective bargaining to be conducted by the private parties involved without governmental interference," he said. "As the Supreme Court observed: 'Congress intended that the parties should have wide latitude in their negotiations, unrestricted by any governmental power to regulate the substantive solution of their differences.'” — Chris Dupin