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Report: ILA-USMX contract negotiations run aground Wednesday

The International Longshoremen’s Association (ILA) President Harold Daggett accused employers of seeking to use automation to eliminate dockworker jobs, according to a report from the Journal of Commerce.

   Negotiations on a new contract between the International Longshoremen’s Association (ILA), which represents dockworkers at East and Gulf Coast ports, and the United States Maritime Alliance (USMX) abruptly broke off Wednesday over a disagreement regarding automation, according to a report from the Journal of Commerce (JOC).
   The current Maine-to-Texas labor contract between the union and its terminal operator employers expires Sept. 30, 2018.
   USMX in September presented the ILA with a proposal to extend the master contract, the details of which were not disclosed.
   ILA President Harold Daggett said in a memo to union locals and their members at the time that the ILA  was “reviewing and evaluating the contents of this document and has contacted USMX to clarify some of the times in the document.”
    On Wednesday, Daggett reportedly accused employers of seeking to use automation to eliminate dockworker jobs. Daggett noted the ILA and USMX did not agree on the distinction between fully automated terminals and semi-automated terminals that have automated features but are operated by dockworkers.
   “When they’re talking about fully automated, they mean two or three people on the whole terminal,” he told JOC. “We’re not going to accept that. If they install a computer on any equipment, they need to provide a seat for a longshoreman next to it.”
   Although Daggett said the union is prepared to avoid bargaining until the contract expires, he has instructed local officials to continue negotiations on supplemental local issues that cover pensions, work rules, and other port-specific matters.
   “Discussions on a range of issues were open and frank, and USMX expects the talks to continue at some point in the future and looks forward to a successful resolution,” USMX said in a statement, according to the JOC report.
   The spotlight has been on the ILA-USMX contract talks since late July, when the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU), which represents dockworkers up and down the U.S. West Coast, voted to approve a three-year contract extension with the Pacific Maritime Association (PMA) nearly two years ahead of the expiration of the previous labor deal. That extension is now good through July 1, 2022.