Port labor negotiations break down
Contract negotiations between unionized East Coast and Gulf Coast port workers and their maritime employers broke down today in Florida, raising concerns that shippers could divert cargo to West Coast ports as a September contract expiration date approaches.
A spokesman for the International Longshoremen’s Association raised the possibility of a strike today, for the first time since the United States Maritime Alliance and the ILA began holding talks in March.
Talks were previously going well, with the ILA and USMX issuing joint statements about progress.
But today the head of USMX, James Capo, issued a statement describing the ILA leadership as “uncompromising” and “unwilling to have a meaningful discussion” about issues including work rules.
“The ILA’s posture is contrary to the history of cooperation that has characterized these negotiations in the past and, since 1977, has led to agreements without any disruption to the supply chain and port operations on the East and Gulf coasts,” he said.
The union says that USMX negotiators presented an ultimatum when a contract committee met this morning, and then broke off the contract talks.
“They just came and said that until we were willing to agree that employers didn’t have to pay for inefficiencies — and we didn’t know what they meant — then the talks were off,” said ILA spokesman James McNamara.
“It was kind of a ‘take it or leave it’ attitude,” he said. “The talks broke down after only about 20 minutes of meeting.”
Capo, in the prepared statement issued by USMX, said maritime employers want to address “archaic practices, among them ‘low-show’ jobs that pay some ILA members for 24 hours of work even if they are only on the job for a few hours a day.”
McNamara said the ILA will likely ask the USMX to present their full contract proposal, rather than continuing with committee meetings.
“If we review it and reject it, and September 30 arrives, then we are likely looking at a strike,” he said.
Ports from Maine to Texas would be involved in any potential labor action.
Read more in Thursday’s editions of The Post and Courier. Follow David Slade on Twitter @DSladeNews.