ILA & USMX Getting to Work Early to Beat the Deadline for a New Contract

Posted March 6, 2017
Category Company News
The ILA and United States Maritime Alliance (USMX), an alliance representing employers of the U.S. East and Gulf Coast longshore industry, recently held a day-long informal conference that primarily served as a forum for local union officials to air their views to management about what they’d like to see in the next contract.  Officials representing both parties reaffirmed their commitment to negotiating a new or extended contract before the current one expires in 19 months.

Wednesday’s informal conference provided both sides with “an opportunity to share, in preliminary talks, issues that are important to both the ILA and employers as we collectively move from these talks to official wage scale negotiations,” the ILA and USMX said in a joint statement after the session. They described the conference as “productive and fruitful.”

No date has been announced for formal bargaining as ILA locals must first elect more than 150 wage-scale delegates to be on hand for negotiations. ILA president Harold Daggett is expected to call for those elections soon. The current six-year contract is in effect until Sept. 30, 2018.

Technology and work jurisdiction, which are expected to be top issues in the negotiations, received attention. ILA jurisdictional concerns include chassis maintenance and repair, jobs at state-operated terminals, and the impact of optical character recognition and other technology at terminal gates on the work of union clerks and mechanics.

Several local officials raised the issue of underfunded ILA pension funds at their ports. ILA pensions are part of local contracts, but some union officials are promoting the idea of using the coastwide master contract to help fund pension-plan shortfalls.

The ILA contract is negotiated in two parts. The Maine-to-Texas master contract sets wages for container and roll-on, roll-off cargo handling, defines the scope of work, and includes medical benefits, carrier-paid container royalties, and other coastwide issues. Supplemental local contracts cover pensions, work rules, and other port-specific issues. Breakbulk and bulk cargo wages also are negotiated at the local level.

Traditionally, the master contract has been negotiated before completion of local negotiations. In the wake of a Baltimore arbitrator’s 2013 ruling that local disputes can’t nullify the master contract’s no-strike clause, Daggett has said he wants to ensure that the next local contracts are settled first.
(Source: The Journal of Commerce)
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