The U.S. Maritime Alliance (USMX) and International Longshoremen's Association (ILA) are giving themselves more time to complete contact negotiations.
Both sides said Wednesday they had agreed to extend a self-imposed March 1 deadline for completion of local contract negotiations to March 8.
They added the extended deadline will coincide with the wage scale meetings planned by the union for the week of March 11 where union delegates will consider a tentative six-year master contract agreement reached by USMX and the ILA on Feb. 1.
The ILA-USMX master contract covers more than 14,500 ILA members who handle containerized cargoes in 14 U.S. East and Gulf coast ports. Among other things, it will provide a $3-per-hour increase over three years and a faster path for new longshoremen to earn top dollar. A summary of the contract highlights can be found here.
Since then they have continued negotiations over local issues.
USMX members were planning to hold a teleconference Thursday morning to update each other on the progress of local negotiations.
George H. Cohen, director of the U.S. Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service, which has been assisting the two sides in contract talks, noted in February the tentative master agreement was subject to the ratification procedures of both parties, as well as agreements being achieved in local union negotiations.
Joe Curto, president of the New York Shipping Association, which handles local negotiations in New York, said local bargaining is ongoing and that three full days of bargaining are scheduled for next week. Federal mediators have been involved in some of the ILA-NYSA meetings, but Curto said the FMCS will be present at all the meetings next week.
While neither USMX or NYSA would discuss the ongoing talks, various management sources contacted by American Shippe
r gave mixed accounts as to how the local talks in New York are going.
One said “good, positive discussions” were “progressing steadily” and that next week’s meetings would be used to “wrap up loose ends.”
But another source felt there had not been enough forward motion in the talks and thought it would be challenging to complete the talks next week.
He said it was unclear if management was going to be successful in efforts to reduce a number of highly paid positions in the Port of New York and New Jersey, especially those that have been characterized by groups such as the Waterfront Commission of New York and New Jersey as “no-show” and “low-show” jobs.
If some high-level jobs are eliminated, he said the most senior members of the union may seek other desirable positions, setting off a chain reaction as members move around to eligible union positions. He said this is a particularly delicate issue for ILA President Harold Daggett, because some of his support within the union comes from ILA members whose jobs might be affected.
Intense competition between terminals in New York and New Jersey further complicates local talks, he said, because if any terminal in the port strikes a deal to reduce costs, other terminals will want a similar bargain. - Chris Dupin