Friday, September 7, 2012

Longshore Union, Employers to Resume Negotiations

An East Coast union representing dockworkers from Texas to Canada has agreed to resume contract negotiations with an employers group with which it broke off talks in August.

The International Longshoremen’s Association (ILA) and United States Maritime Alliance, or USMX, have consented to resume talks during the week of Sept. 17, according to the Washington DC-based Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service.

Talks are resuming at the federal agency’s request, according to a Sept. 6 FMCS press release.

“Due to the sensitivity of this high profile dispute and consistent with the Agency’s longstanding practice, we will not disclose either the location of the meeting or the content of the substantive negotiations that will take place,” FMCS Director George Cohen said in the announcement.

The maritime alliance represents employers at 14 ports and 24 ocean carriers; the ILA has about 65,000 members. The contract between the employers group and union expires Sept. 30, but the two sides are far apart on the issue of implementing technology to improve terminal efficiency.

The longshore union represents workers on the Atlantic and Gulf Coasts, Great Lakes, major US rivers, Puerto Rico and Eastern Canada. But if an agreement isn’t reached, the ripple effect could reach the other side of the US, since some shippers could opt to bypass ports with striking workers in favor of West Coast ports. The contract for the International Longshore and Warehouse Union, which represents West Coast port labor, doesn’t expire until July 1, 2014.