The New York Shipping Association (NYSA) is planning to ask the Waterfront Commission of New York Harbor to open its rolls so that additional men and women can work as longshoremen in the Port of New York and New Jersey.
The recently-approved contract between employers and the International Longshoremen's Association encouraged retirement of some older longshoremen with a buyout package, and 300 longshoremen will retire in the Port of New York and New Jersey by next April.
John Nardi, NYSA president, which represents the employers in the port, said the association will seek to bolster the workforce, both to replace those retirees and add workers to handle growth in cargo volumes.
He also noted there will be a need for additional workers when the port implements a relief gang system in late 2014. That system seeks to reduce the amount of overtime ILA members work.
He added that NYSA is in the process of finalizing how many workers it would like to be able to hire this week.
NYSA is still speaking with each terminal operator in the port about its labor needs, and Nardi noted because there is a port-wide pool of workers, "what you do with one employer may affect other employers. We need to balance that out so we don't bring in too many people."
He said the ILA and NYSA have been sending veteran candidates to the Waterfront Commission for prescreening to expedite the process.
There are about 3,250 longshoremen in the Port of New York and New Jersey, and each one undergoes a criminal background check.
The Waterfront Commission was created in 1953 to fight crime on the waterfront. It does background investigations and licenses longshoremen and other waterfront workers. It also controls the supply of labor on the waterfront.
Walter Arsenault, executive director of the Waterfront Commission, said how the commission handles the request to add new longshoremen, and whether hearings will be necessary, will depend on the number of additional workers the employers are seeking in addition to replacing the retirees.
He said the commission has the ability to limit the size of the workforce on the theory that "an oversupply of labor is a breeding ground for corruption and organized crime. So we are always very careful to balance the number of available workers with the need for workers."
Longshore jobs are seen as highly desirable and, in the past, some people, including Patrick Foye, executive director of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, have raised questions about minority hiring practices.
Arsenault said NYSA's employment outreach programs may be reviewed by the commission when it considers the request to open the rolls.
The most recent NYSA annual report noted in August 2012 the New York State Division of Human Rights (NYSDHR) filed a complaint against NYSA and several of its direct-employer members alleging they had engaged in discriminatory hiring practices on the New York side of the harbor.
NYSA said it now has a port-wide hiring plan now in effect in the Port of New York and New Jersey that provides a preference to veterans. - Chris Dupin