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Following up on the ILA-USMX extension

By Jeff Berman, Group News Editor
September 21, 2012

With yesterday’s news that the International Longshoremen’s Association and the United States Maritime Alliance (USMX) have achieved a détente of sorts in their ongoing labor negotiations, having reached a 90-day extension through December 29, with help from the United States Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service, this development provides hope that an actual labor strike can be averted altogether.

That was the sentiment from the Agriculture Transportation Coalition (AgTC).

AgTC officials said in a statement that it is “pleased” that negotiations will continue and that the ILA and USMX will resolve their differences by December 29 in order to avoid a strike or other action that would be harmful to the economy.

Exports are key to our nation’s economic recovery, and agriculture and forest products are the largest domestically produced export, and thus essential to any hope we have to restore jobs and growth,” said AgTC. “As we are currently in harvest season, the prospect of disruption to the export supply chain was particularly alarming. We appreciate the role of the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service, and trust that it will keep both parties at the table, seriously addressing the remaining issues.”

Other parties, including the National Retail Federation and the Retail Industry Leaders Association were equally pleased, with both concerns expressing relief that holiday shipping season—or Peak Season—shipping will not be compromised and also stating that it is key for both concerns to come to agreement on a new contract.

So, what are some of the specifics of what came out of this week’s negotiations?

On the ILA’s Facebook page of all places, I came across some specifics. So I am not misrepresenting the ILA in any way, here is what it said in its entirety:

ILA Negotiators would not budge on their opposition to eliminating the 8 hour guarantee and overtime provisions during negotiations this past week with United States Maritime Alliance. USMX finally removed these two items from their Master Contract proposals just before the two sides agreed to keep negotiations moving with a 90-day extension.

The ILA also kept intact its tentative agreements on automation and chassis repair work, major accomplishments achieved in July that would have been lost if the union went on strike October 1, 2012.

The ILA would have also lost all its funding for Container Freight Station work, which produces significant man-hours for ILA members, especially in the South.

By agreeing to continue negotiations for 90 days beyond the October 1st deadline, the ILA members will not jeopardize their Container Royalty payment in December.
Because the ILA was holding firm in its negotiation position of protecting MILA, overtime pay, the eight hour guarantee and jurisdiction and because ILA President Harold J. Daggett was making headway toward a successful contract, the ILA agreed to keep working and negotiating for another three months.”

At press time USMX did not have similar details on its Web site.

In any event, the 90-day extension is good news, given how shippers were actively looking into contingency plans for getting freight into the U.S., whether it is through Canada or West Coast ports. 

I was not covering this industry in 2002, when a ten-day labor shutdown on West Coast ports costs the U.S. economy about $1 billion per day and required six months to recover from it, said the NRF. Fortunately, we do not need to worry about it for now, but in 90 days we most certainly will. Here is to hoping ILA and USMX find common ground and get a deal done. Who knows, maybe our elected leaders in Washington can follow their lead—if a deal is struck—and do the same thing one of these days?

About the Author

Jeff Berman headshot
Jeff Berman
Group News Editor

Jeff Berman is Group News Editor for Logistics Management, Modern Materials Handling, and Supply Chain Management Review. Jeff works and lives in Cape Elizabeth, Maine, where he covers all aspects of the supply chain, logistics, freight transportation, and materials handling sectors on a daily basis. .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).


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