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Shippers urge ILA, employers to resume contract talks

Over 110 associations representing shippers and logistics providers called on the International Longshoremen’s Association and the United States Maritime Alliance to resume labor contract talks, which broke off in December over automation.

   A group of over 110 associations representing shippers and logistics providers are calling on the International Longshoremen’s Association (ILA) and employers to resume negotiations on a contract extension.
   A letter sent today to ILA President Harold Daggett and David Adam, the chief executive officer of United States Maritime Alliance, Ltd. (USMX), which represents ILA employers, expressed “deep concern” about the breakdown in contract talks.
   “Until negotiations broke down, we were encouraged by the possibility that the International Longshore Association and the United States Maritime Alliance might conclude negotiations well in advance of the contract expiration in September 2018,” the letter said. “We strongly encourage both sides to return to the table as soon as possible and resume negotiations.
   “Reaching a contract extension before the current contract expires will provide supply chain stakeholders with the certainty they need for their operations,” the letter said, adding that “even the threat of a disruption can have negative economic impact on the Gulf and East Coast ports, especially if shippers and beneficial cargo owners believe that operations will be slowed or shut down during peak shipping season next fall.”
   The National Retail Federation, Agriculture Transportation Coalition and U.S. Chamber of Commerce are among the groups that signed the letter.
   The ILA and USMX met on Dec. 5 and 6 in Florida to discuss the contract extension, but negotiations broke down over issues having to do with automation.
   Daggett said a proposal from USMX “would have killed this union within five years – they’d be nothing left. As of today, the ILA is against semi-automated terminals.”
   He indicated the union was willing to wait until the end of the current contract to resume talks “when we hold the advantage. The future of our ILA members’ jobs and our union are at stake here.”
   The letter noted that, “Some industries will begin implementing contingency planning as early as this spring to ensure that cargo is not disrupted during peak shipping season in the fall. In the absence of negotiations, those contingency plans will definitely affect business at East and Gulf Coast container terminals.”

Chris Dupin

Chris Dupin has written about trade and transportation and other business subjects for a variety of publications before joining American Shipper and Freightwaves.