A labor strike that will shut down U.S. East Coast and Gulf ports a little more than a week from now seems unstoppable.
Negotiations have once again broken down between the ILA and the USMX. Nothing seems to be scheduled for the two parties to meet back at the negotiation tables before ILA is scheduled to strike, not merely shutting down ports but handing a blow to the U.S. economy.
American Shipper broke the news shortly after it happened that talks “broke off abruptly” yesterday afternoon.
The Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service (FMCS) tried to get another short contract extension between USMX and ILA in order to keep the parties at the negotiating table. USMX agreed but the ILA did not, according to the former’s labor updates website.
However, American Shipper reported that ILA’s executive vice president, Bennie Holland, said ILA was “willing to extend the contract to Feb. 1 and keep talking if management would be willing to take the container royalty cap off the table…”
USMX’s desire to have a container royalty cap has been a major sticking point in the negotiations.
ILA would already have been on strike if the FMCS had not been successful in getting the two parties to agree to a contract extension through December 29th.
But back to that American Shipper report and Holland said because USMX refused to accept ILA’s demand of taking the royalty cap off the table, “right now unless we hear back from them we [ILA] will be on strike on Dec. 29”
USMX senior vice president and chief operating officer Dave Adam said, according to American Shipper, “’employers are willing to continue to bargain in good faith,’ but that the union had put terms on the extension that were unacceptable.”
It seems kind of like a case of “he said, she said” as far as who left the negotiation table, not willing to extend the current contract. However, if the USMX is willing to keep negotiating with the contract as is while trying to figure out a new one and the ILA is only willing to extend and keep negotiating if USMX drops a major item they’re negotiating for, USMX seems the most committed to working out a deal without the event of a strike.
Then again, off course they would be. That is the point of a strike. It is a tool of organized labor to use against their employer(s) in an attempt to gain leverage. It’s just in this case, the strike becomes a tool against not just ILA’s employer, but the international shipping industry and the U.S. economy as a whole.
Now carriers are implementing “Congestion Surcharges” on cargo going to U.S. destinations, even if the cargo is imported through Canada or Mexico with the mess the strike will cause.
Because the strike is so close and so likely, it looks like carriers may stop taking export bookings through the East Coast and Gulf ports as early as today.
There is no single contingency plan for working around massive port closures due to the ILA strike. Universal Cargo Management will be working with shippers on the best solutions that fit import and export needs.
These solutions may include utilizing shipping by air freight, air and sea combo shipping, rerouting through West Coast ports, and more.
Be ready, this ILA strike is not likely to only cause problems for import and export shipments that would go through East Coast and Gulf ports. Other ports are likely to see delays due to congestion and possibly even due to labor striking on the West Coast in solidarity with the East Coast labor.
We’re ready to help you with your international shipping needs and committed to providing you with the best possible options for your imports and exports no matter what the situation. Contact us about your cargo today.