East Coast ports to see 6-year labor peace as ILA, USMX strike deal

Dive Brief:

  • The International Longshoremen’s Association (ILA) and United States Maritime Alliance (USMX) announced Wednesday the parties struck a tentative deal for a new, six-year master contract.
  • The deal follows two-days of talks at Delray Beach, Florida, where more than 200 members of the ILA met with the East Coast port employer representatives to discuss a contract renewal well before the current pact expired on September 30, 2018.
  • Now, local chapters of the ILA and individual port authorities have been instructed to reach individual deals to supplement the master contract by July 10. At that point, the ILA and USMX will subject the master contract to “full membership ratification votes.”

Dive Insight:

Talks, so far, had been testy at best between East Coast ports and unions. As is typical of negotiations, both sides first reached the table with a long list of demands that seemed untenable to the other party. The ILA, at one point, broke off talks with the port employers’ association over USMX demands the union allow fully automated ports.

But over time, and with pressure from shippers to reach a deal in advance of the present contract’s expiry, “intensive bargaining” led to a deal. The terms of the new master contract have yet to be released.

The deal is still tentative, and labor bargains at the local level have the potential to be even more tenuous.

Just last month, the ILA said its chapter at the ports of Philadelphia and Wilmington may retire from the master contract altogether, to give the union flexibility to recapture jobs on the Delaware River.

The news is a good sign for shippers and port employers, as it shows the union is willing to find solutions at the local level that do not sacrifice the master contract altogether.

But it could also lead to a further divergence among East Coast ports, between those that are union-run but benefiting from labor piece, and others with more tumultuous relationships.

07 June 2018 | Edwin Lopez | Supply Chain Dive