With Eye Toward Protecting Container Royalty and MILA Benefits and Eligibility During COVID-19 Pandemic, ILA’s Dennis Daggett Spells Out Why “Hazard Pay” Could Threaten Industry’s Financial Stability

NORTH BERGEN, NJ – (April 21, 2020). Today, ILA Executive Vice President Dennis A. Daggett addressed the issue of ILA employers paying workforce hazard pay during COVID-19 Pandemic. Responding to inquiries he received from posts on the ILA New York-New Jersey Covid-19 Information Facebook Page and telephone calls, Daggett addressed the issue straight on in a statement, saying that while ILA leadership would welcome hazard pay if funds were available, the union leadership must first protect its Container Royalty Funds and MILA Health Care Benefits which directly affects tens of thousands of ILA members and their families.

Daggett said the ILA leadership was carefully monitoring the financial health of all its employers saying that the carriers are feeling “a lot of pain right now.”

Dennis Daggett’s full statement follows:

Questions regarding Hazard Pay

We have seen a few comments, and have received calls regarding possible hazard pay. For those of you who don’t know me, I try to be a big picture guy, and study every possible scenario. First off, for some reason we always seem to be on the losing side in the court of public opinion. Did you ever read the comments at the bottom of an article that is written about the ILA? It’s sad how a lot of the public view us and really have no idea what it is we do. Most people have no idea how the products they buy get to stores. Most people have no idea how dangerous our industry is and how skilled you have to be. Just show someone outside of our industry the Straddle yard at Maher during a ship operation and watch their face. Most people can’t believe it. They usually say, it looks like something out of Star Wars.

The public has been reading and watching on TV the heroism from our health care workers. These Healthcare workers are in the trenches risking their health being in direct contact with infected patients. I recently lost my Aunt who was in a nursing home and some of the staff had no PPE and yet going to work every day and not asking for a dollar more.

We all have been blessed to be a part of a very lucrative industry, but believe me the carriers are feeling a lot of pain right now. Ships are being laid up, and we are seeing blank sailings on the ship’s schedules.

The Port of Virginia has had to close one terminal due to the impact of COVID and we were just notified that there will be 40 blank sailings in the next two months. MSC offsets a lot of their cost with their Cruise business and by now everyone knows what’s going in the cruise industry. CMA is also having major cash flow problems and just sold off $800 million of their interests in Terminals throughout the World to get their hands on some cash. I raise this because sometimes we believe, myself included, that this industry just has a bottomless pit. Do I think we should get it? My initial reaction was yes until I looked at other areas that are affecting ILA members coastwise. This is what we are concerned about:

Container Royalty

Projections are down at least 10% as of now. The longer this pandemic continues we will see that percentage go up with blank sailings, consolidation of cargo, and lighter ships.

MILA Eligibility

Looking at the coastwide impact on man hours this could potentially be the biggest problem. Will most people qualify for the level of benefits they are accustomed to receiving?

These are two major issues that will need to be addressed after this pandemic is over. I believe we need to weigh our options. Hazard pay would be great, don’t get me wrong, but the amount of money we could be potentially talking about here in regard to Container Royalty and MILA benefits could be astronomical Coastwise. Thankfully in 2011 we negotiated a floor on Container Royalty so that if something like COVID occurs we are guaranteed the 2011 numbers plus the additional 16 million dollars that is owed to us in the current contract.

I bring this to your attention because it’s important to us that you know we are monitoring this situation closely and making sure our assessments are paid on time, and that we are carefully looking at every scenario so when it’s time we will do everything in our Power to make sure we make the right decision for the majority of our membership. It looks like there will have to be some serious negotiating after we get through this crisis.