A showdown could be in the works next month over who has the right to repair chassis used to move containers to and from marine terminals.
The International Longshoremen's Association (ILA) and the management group that bargains with them, the United States Maritime Alliance (USMX), sent a joint letter dated August 6 to their memberships saying "there has been an influx of leasing company chassis that are directly leased to truckers who do not use the ILA to perform maintenance and repair of these chassis requesting service at USMX Master Contract covered facilities."
The letter, signed by ILA President Harold Daggett, and David Adam, the chairman and chief executive officer of USMX, goes on to say that chassis leased to truckers and not maintained by the ILA violate a work-preservation commitment contained in the ILA/USMX master contract that was agreed to earlier this year because "these chassis had in the past been maintained and repaired historically at facilities in port areas that employ ILA-represented maintenance workers."
A provision in the contract says "no container chassis shall be received, delivered, mounted on or dismounted from a chassis pool chassis that that been repaired and maintained in the port area by employees who are not represented by the ILA."
"Beginning the later of September 16, 2013, or when any affected port returns to normal operations, those chassis will no longer be serviced (container lift on-lift off) at Master Contract-covered facilities," the ILA/USMX letter says. It adds that chassis owned by shippers or truckers will continue to be served as they have in the past.
"We worked very hard on that language in the contract," said Jim McNamara, and ILA spokesman. He said the joint management-union letter was sent out "to specify the language and make certain what is ours is ours."
He said the purpose was to make sure the language in the agreement was being complied with "up and down the coast. When there is language in the contract where new things have been put in or changed, sometimes people interpret things differently, and we want to make sure there is not misinterpretation."
The letter has been posted on the ILA's website this week along with another,
also signed by Daggett and Adam, that says the ILA — not, for example a ship's crew — has jurisdiction over the plugging and unplugging of containers aboard ships calling at master contract ports provided that the bargaining parties can agree on the manning and agreed hours for the ILA labor.
Meanwhile, McNamara said that Daggett is planning to travel to Virginia and Baltimore, where ILA members have failed to ratify contracts governing local port issues to learn more about why proposed pacts have been rejected. Earlier this week, the ILA rank and file in Hampton Roads rejected a proposed contract for a second time.
- Chris Dupin