NORTH BERGEN, NJ – A new six-year Master Contract, covering some 14,500 waterfront workers belonging to the International Longshoremen’s Association, AFL-CIO (ILA) was overwhelming approved by ILA members today in a ratification vote conducted at ports on the Atlantic and Gulf Coast. The ILA negotiated this new Master Contract with United States Maritime Alliance (USMX), an alliance of container carriers, direct employers, and port associations serving the East and Gulf Coasts of the United States.
The settlement ends more than a year of negotiations between employers and the ILA. With the assistance of the offices of the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Services, the ILA and USMX negotiated well beyond the original contract deadline of September 30, 2012, agreeing to a series of extensions to keep cargo moving and bargaining continuing rather than engage in a devastating strike or lockout.
A few ILA Locals were still reporting results to ILA headquarters late Tuesday evening, but overwhelming ratification was already secured based on the majority of ILA locals that had reported results.
Much attention throughout negotiations was also paid to the pending local agreement in the Port of New York and New Jersey between the ILA and New York Shipping Association. Longshore workers up and down the coast voted today for both the Master Contract and their respective local agreements and ILA members in New York and New Jersey coupled their acceptance of the Master Contract with solid approval of the local agreement, by a better than three to one margin.
In the Master Contract, ILA members won handsome gains in the new six-year agreement, including wage increases totaling $3 an hour spread out over the life of the agreement that will, by the final year of the new contract, bring their hourly rate of pay to $35.00 an hour. Lower tiered workers will enjoy an even higher wage percentage increase as their pay progression scale was shortened to six years from nine years in the new agreement. Thus, a new ILA member earning a base pay of $20.00 an hour at the start of the 6-year contract will increase to $35.00 an hour by the end of the sixth year of the contract.
“On behalf of ILA members and officers at all ports, we’re thrilled this Master Contract was ratified by an overwhelming margin,” said ILA President Harold J. Daggett, who served as ILA Chief Negotiator at these negotiations for the first time since he was elected International President in July 2011. “We all worked very hard, achieved landmark improvements and protected our members and our union for many years.”
One major area of protection was contract language that strongly protects ILA workers who have been displaced due to new technology and automation. ILA President Daggett announced nearly two years ago at the union’s quadrennial convention where he was elected president that he would not allow automation to rob ILA members of their livelihood. In the new 6-year agreement, he won job guarantees for those ILA members displaced and a joint management-ILA committee to continually examine automation’s effect on the ILA workforce.
In other areas related to job protection, the ILA successfully negotiated terms that will restrict the outsourcing or subcontracting of ILA jobs to non-ILA employers. Specifically, the ILA will preserve its chassis maintenance and repair jurisdiction and expand major damage criteria to protect even more jobs.
The ILA’s national health care plan, MILA is already considered one of the best in the nation, remains unchanged with benefits secured and funds protected.
Along with the Master Contract, nearly all ILA local agreements on the Atlantic and Gulf Coast also were ratified by ILA members, with the exception of the Ports of Baltimore, Philadelphia and Hampton Roads. Those port areas were permitted to continue negotiating their local agreements and are expected to complete them early next week.
USMX members will vote to ratify the Master Contract on April 17. The completion of this new Master Contract by both sides will bring stability and, growth to the industry for six years. The contract settlement comes a year before the expected opening of the expanded Panama Canal where a surge in commerce at Atlantic and Gulf Coast ports is expected.