Stalled labor contract negotiations involving the International Longshoremen's Association aren't expected to disrupt operations at the Port of Charleston, a local union official said Friday.
Ken Riley, president of ILA Local 1422 in Charleston, said that even though the union recently approved a strike, there is no immediate threat of workers walking off the job.
"The strike vote gives us the authorization if it comes to that," Riley said. "We don't anticipate that, and we are nowhere near that."
Last week's strike authorization vote came after the ILA membership rejected a "best and final offer" from the S.C. Stevedores Association, according to a written statement from Riley and John Alvanos, president of ILA Local 1771.
"The next step in the process was to take a strike vote, which was voted up almost unanimously by the membership," according to the statement.
The ILA is also requesting the Federal Mediation and Consultation Services to help with contract talks between the union and the stevedores association, a third-party group that manages work done by ILA workers.
Members of ILA Local 1422 move cargo off and on ships. ILA 1771 is made up of "clerks and checkers" who direct trucks in and out of the local port terminals.
At issue is a local labor contract that's separate from the master contract ratified last year by the ILA and U.S. Maritime Alliance.
Billy Adams Jr., executive director of the S.C. Stevedores Association, said the union asked management to submit its final proposal before all the details were ironed out.
"Management was asked to give them their best and final offer," Adams said. "We were still in negotiations when they asked for our best and final offer."
The ILA represents roughly 14,500 workers at the Port of Charleston, officials have said.
Adams and ILA officials have declined to discuss details about the local labor contract.
The Journal of Commerce, a trade publication, has reported that the ILA is seeking increased pension funding and jurisdiction over port work now performed by State Ports Authority employees, among other issues.
The statement from Riley and Alvanos added that the union previously approved a strike vote during contract talks in 2006.
"Back then, the parties continued to talk and the dispute was settled without any disruptions to port work," according to the statement. "The ILA remains optimistic and is hoping for (a) similar outcome this time around."
Also, the ILA said it is fully aware of the far-reaching effects a strike would have on the region and South Carolina.
"The economy of our state depends on what we do, and we in the ILA do not take that for granted," according to the statement.
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