MOL Benefactor

International Longshoremen’s Association union president Harold Daggett has thrown a barb into contract talks with the U.S. Maritime Association.

In a letter to ILA members, Daggett said the union representing 65,000 longshoremen on the Atlantic and Gulf Coasts, Great Lakes, major U.S. rivers, Puerto Rico and Eastern Canada, said the ILA will oppose fully automated terminals and put greater emphasis on local contract bargaining.

He said informal talks with USMX management leaders are scheduled for Feb. 13 on a new master contract or extension of the current six-year agreement covering Atlantic and Gulf Coast ports that runs through Sept. 30, 2018. Daggett noted that the informal talks with USMX representatives are not formal wage scale meetings, but are meant to give the two sides a chance to address issues relating to the collective bargaining agreement.

“When the ILA meets for these informal talks in early February, it is my intention to relay two important issues to our employers,” Daggett said. “One is that the ILA intends to put greater emphasis on local contract bargaining. The last time around, several ILA local ports had failed to reach an agreement on their local contracts before the master contract was ratified in April 2013.”

He said major ports like Baltimore; Hampton Roads, Va., and Charleston, S.C., were without local agreements for long periods months after the master contract took effect.

“The ILA will make certain that ILA members at all ports are satisfied with their local agreements before we ask them to ratify the entire contract package,” he said.

The two sides started negotiations on a contract extension last year, largely to avoid what happened on the West Coast in 2015. Prolonged contract talks on the West Coast lasted 10 months and caused major congestion and delays at 29 Pacific ports early last year.

Daggett said he was sure automation will dominate the master contract talks. He referenced a recent New York Times article on the impact of automation in China.

“The article revealed some shocking statistics from an industry whose many workers are members of our fellow AFL-CIO affiliated union, the United Steel Workers,” he said. “Between 1962 and 2005, the article said, the steel industry lost 400,000 jobs, totaling 75 percent of its workforce.”

The union president said a key aspect issue of the article was “displaced workers,” noting that shipments of steel did not decline over that period. “Rather, profits were maintained while jobs were cut.”

“The [loss of] nearly half-a-million jobs in the steel industry was attributed to automation — new technology called the mini-mill,” Daggett said. “The ILA will not allow automation to rip apart our livelihoods and destroy our jobs and families. Right from the outset, the ILA intends to let management know that we are totally opposed to ‘fully automated terminals.'”

Daggett said the ILA has no problem with semi-automated terminals. “We know that we cannot stop progress and many forms of new technology help our workers do their jobs more efficiently, more safely, but without the threat of job elimination. We will continue to press for training and retraining for our ILA members.”

A spokeswoman for USMX said the organization had no comment on Daggett’s statement.