U.S. Ports: Labor Negotiations on East and West Coasts in Jeopardy

Talks for a new Master Contract between the International Longshoreman Association (ILA) and the United States Maritime Alliance (USMX), the associations representing port labor and employers on the East and Gulf Coasts, were recently reduced to a public back-and-forth between the two parties.

Beginning November 15 with an ILA statement against USMX requests for changes in work rules, a response from USMX called on the ILA to engage in “serious” negotiations, and the ILA responded by saying the USMX is the non-cooperating party. With the December 29 contract extension deadline continuing to draw closer, the ILA has called a full-scale Wage Committee meeting, and despite the recent turmoil, is scheduled to meet with USMX on December 10.

On the West Coast, negotiations between the Office Clerical Union Local 63 (OCU) of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU), representing office workers in the LA-Long Beach port complex, and the Harbor Employers Association (HEA), representing shipping lines and terminal operators, have broken down after an HEA contract proposal. The OCU have been working with the HEA without a contract since June 2010, and have been negotiating since early August for a new contract. The HEA released a statement November 20 detailing the OCU rejection of the HEA’s proposal and the OCU withdrawal from negotiations. No new talks have been scheduled.

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Container Royalty Will Be Protected, Pledges ILA President Harold Daggett
International Longshoremen’s Association

Preventing a cap on Container Royalty is one of the key battles facing ILA President Harold J. Daggett as he continues to lead negotiations for the union against United States Maritime Alliance.

Other issues in the current negotiations that have direct effect on ILA members from Maine to Texas are the eight-hour guarantee and the seven man lashing gang.

“USMX has made it clear in negotiations and to the public through their website postings (USMX.com) that they are looking to cut, as an example, an ILA member in Savannah’s Container Royalty payment and eliminate an eight hour guarantee for an ILA member in Houston,” said ILA President Harold Daggett. “They attack work rules in New York and look to strip the seven-man lashing gang in the South Atlantic. We understand that USMX has continually played one port against the other but that strategy will not succeed.”

USMX Urges ILA to Engage in ‘Serious’ Negotiations
U.S. Maritime Alliance (USMX) Statement

ISELIN, N.J. (Nov. 20, 2012) – The United States Maritime Alliance (USMX) issued the following statement today regarding the status of negotiations between USMX and the International Longshoremen’s Association (ILA). The statement should be attributed to USMX Chairman and CEO James A. Capo.

“Throughout the course of the negotiations, USMX has given due consideration to ILA demands and shown its willingness to compromise on issues such as automation and chassis repair. It is disappointing that ILA negotiators have refused to give the same consideration to issues that concern USMX and the employers it represents.

“The ILA leadership’s uncompromising posture is contrary to the cooperation that has characterized bargaining and that for more than three decades has resulted in nine new Master Contracts without a single strike or coast-wide work stoppage.

“We accept the fact that it will take time to change the inefficient work rules and practices that have built up over many years. But it will take meaningful discussions about these challenges to reach agreement on a new Master Contract, one that will preserve thousands of well-paying jobs averaging $124,138 a year in wages and benefits and ensure the viability of the ports for years to come.”

Office Clerical Unit (OCU) Rejects Employers’ Offer for Fair and Reasonable Contracts; Ends Negotiations
Los Angeles / Long Beach Harbor Employers Association (HEA) Statement

(LOS ANGELES November 20, 2012) – The negotiating teams representing employers at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach released the following statement regarding the status of negotiations with the International Longshore and Warehouse Union Local 63 Office Clerical Unit (“OCU”):

After weeks of negotiations during which the harbor employers believed that progress had been made towards new collective bargaining agreements with the OCU, the OCU has reversed course and once again called an end to negotiations in a move signaling that further OCU-initiated disruption in the LA/Long Beach ports is likely. The OCU broke off negotiations after backing out of an agreement that provided a framework for resolving the parties’ dispute over staffing issues, presenting a series of regressive demands that only served to widen the gap between the parties, and rejecting the harbor employers’ latest-and most generous-proposals to date.