Friday, December 08, 2017

Union walks out of port contract talks

Written by 
  • Print
  • Email
  • See Video Below

Leaders of longshore unions walked out of the start of talks aimed at extending the current contracts for dockworkers at East and Gulf coast ports in a dispute over automation.

See Video Below

While technology was expected to be a central issue in the negotiations on the current contract, which expires in September 2018, the unions are opposed to container terminals adopting the same level of automation as ports in Europe.

The International Longshoremen’s Association (ILA) and United States Maritime Alliance Ltd. (USMX), which represents terminal operators and container shipping lines, were scheduled to meet Tuesday and Wednesday in Hollywood, Fla., but the talks broke up early on the second day, according to reports.

“They got upset about some discussions we were having around automation and then they left,” David Adam, USMX chief executive, told the Wall Street Journal. “I was absolutely shocked.”

East Coast ports believe an extension would help them compete more effectively with West Coast ports for freight. Employers there in August agreed to extend a separate labor contract with dockworkers through 2022, assuaging the fears of retailers and other shippers of possible service disruptions.

But the ILA disagrees with East Coast employers about how to define a fully automated terminal.

“ILA suggested language that any unmanned equipment would be considered automated,” union spokesman James McNamara said. The union was “definitely frustrated and not happy,” and “we weren’t able to get the assurances and the language we felt comfortable with to move forward.” The ILA advised its delegates to resume local bargaining with ports.

Some local unions have called for a one-day strike from Maine to Texas, so members could rally in Washington, D.C., over jobs lost to automation and nonunion labor.

In a statement USMX said it expects the talks to continue “at some point in the future.”







Get the latest rail news

Rail news and analysis from Railway Age, IRJ and RT&S by email