|Dockworkers move ammunition and supplies from the Joint Base Charleston-Weapons Station to the military Sealift U.S. Navy ship Lewis and Clark during an ammunition onload recently at the weapons station. (Photo/Staff Sgt. Rasheen A. Douglas/U.S. Air Force)|
By Matt Tomsic
Published March 6, 2013
LONG BEACH, Calif. — East Coast dockworkers and ocean carriers are still negotiating local contracts as the two sides try to reach an agreement on contingencies in a tentative contract, panelists said during an international maritime conference Tuesday.
Joseph Bonney, senior editor for the Journal of Commerce, said contingencies included pensions, work rules and other port specific issues, and both sides were trying to reach a compromise before the International Longshoremen’s Association wage scale committee meets next week in Florida. His comments came during TPM 2013, an international conference for the maritime industry sponsored by the Journal of Commerce.
“Beyond that, all I can say is they’re talking,” Bonney said. “And we’ll just have to wait and see what happens.”
The longshoremen’s association and U.S. Maritime Alliance reached a tentative agreement on a master contract in February. The contract affects dockworkers at East and Gulf coast ports, but ports authorities, including the S.C. State Ports Authority, are not parties to the negotiations.
Dockworkers and ocean carriers have been negotiating a new labor contract since September 2012, when the contract was set to expire. They extended it twice before reaching the agreement in February.
The last contract began Oct. 1, 2004, and received a two-year extension in 2009. It covers longshoremen from Texas to Maine and directly affects about 2,000 workers in Charleston. As the contract’s expiration date neared, dockworkers and ocean carriers faced a potential strike at East and Gulf coast ports.
After Bonney spoke Tuesday, Tony Scioscia, vice president of labor relations for Maersk Agency USA, addressed the group. Scioscia is involved in the current labor negotiations but couldn’t talk about the specifics of those negotiations.
He said ports experienced peaceful relations with labor from the 1970s through the 1990s.
“This period of labor peace came at a price,” Scioscia said, adding some U.S. ports achieved distinctions for high cost and low productivity during that time. “Responsibility for this result was not the longshore unions but rather management.”
Management didn’t bargain then and instead conceded to union demands, he said.
“Correcting the situation also lies with management,” Scioscia said. “We’re done with high costs and low productivity.”