New ILA Master Contract Details & Approval Expectations

 In cargo, container shipping, Container Shipping & Transport, ILA, International Shipping, ports, shipping

ILA logoBack in June, we blogged that the International Longshoremen’s Association (ILA) and United States Maritime Alliance (USMX) reached a dockworkers agreement that should bring stability to the East and Gulf Coast ports for the next several years (with an expiration date in 2024).

However, that Master Agreement is only tentative until the ILA rank and file approve it, so it can be ratified. With the current contract expiring next month, many shippers are wondering what the status is on the new Master Contract getting approved.

Well, it won’t get voted on until next month. Yes, the same month the current contract expires. In the meantime, the ILA is working to convince the rank and file to vote yes on the tentative contract agreement.

In fact, the ILA even created a video in which ILA Executive Vice President Dennis Daggett hails the tentative contract as “the best ILA Master Contract ever negotiated” in his bid to sway the rank and file to vote yes on its approval.

In the video, imbedded below, Daggett talks through major points of the contract with an emphasis on the success the ILA had in negotiating the issue of automation, telling the rank and file that his father, ILA President Harold Daggett, “convinced management to invest in you rather than automation.”

Automation was a major sticking point in the contract negotiations between the ILA and USMX.

Perhaps one of the biggest selling points in the video is when Daggett says, “No fully automated terminals and no fully automated equipment will be implemented during the life of the contract.”

Daggett adds a little context by defining what is meant by fully automated. “Fully automated is defined as machinery or equipment that is devoid of human interaction,” he says.

Protections for union members are not limited only to fully automated terminals and equipment. Daggett adds, “Management and ILA agree that no semiautomated equipment and no technology automation will be implemented until both parties agree to workforce protections and staffing levels.”

He then gives bullet points on how the ILA workforce will be protected:

  • Determining manning for new equipment & number of positions affected by head count
  • Reassigning workers within their craft
  • Identifying the rate of pay which must be Master Contract wages & similar hours in remaining or new positions
  • Identifying the new work created by technology
  • Providing training to ensure that all workers have the tools to succeed

The contract includes clearly defined steps to resolution of issues that arise between the ILA and employers at the ports. All resolutions and agreements on such issues will be binding, but Daggett points out that “all negotiations, resolutions, and agreements are port-specific. In other words, the process is not one size fits all but is tailored to an individual port.”

Automation is obviously an important issue to the rank and file because it directly affects job security. However, just as high on the list for the rank and file are monetary numbers. Will they make more money? How much more?

Daggett talks about a significant increase in container royalties the ILA will receive, but then brings up what appears to be the biggest sticking point for the rank and file: hourly wage increases.

“ILA members will see an economic increase every year of the contract.” That sounds good, but comments from ILA members on the video show that there are members of the rank and file who are not happy with the fact there is only a $1 hourly increase in either wages or ILA members’ money purchase plan each year.

“When is the ila [sic] going to negotiate a real cost of living raise?” complains Caa 311 in the comments section to the video on Youtube. “We have not gotten a decent raise since 1984! Had we just got a 3 percent raise every year since 1984 we would be over $60 an hour. This one dollar every other year crap destroys our ability to buy goods and services. Y’all are effectively lowering our pay by not keeping up with the cost of living. I’ll vote no again just like every other crap contract the ila has brought to us. [sic]”

Yes, that’s an ILA member representing that he or she will vote against the contract. Another user, Glenwood Wilson, chimed in with some colorful language to show his displeasure with the $1 wage increases as well.

However, not all comments were negative. YouTube user wilfredo Pagan replied to Caa 311’s negative comment with:

Caa How can one condemn this contract? This is the best indenture I’ve been subject to in the last 20 years! If you put in the hours, you see results through your weekly paychecks. Anyone who is unhappy should consider changing professions. Raises aside, our medical coverage is great! What other profession out there covers individuals even after retirement?! I’ll reiterate my earlier post, I affirmatively vote yes to this contract! God Bless the I.L.A.

Shippers probably shouldn’t be too concerned that not all ILA members are in support of the contract. There are always some votes against new contracts and naysayers or the disgruntled often make their voices loud.

So far, I haven’t found anyone with serious expectations that the contract will fail to win the ILA rank and file vote.

The strong benefits ILA members receive, which wilfredo Pagan mentions in his pro Master Contract comment, will have no reductions according to Daggett in the video. Daggett also adds, “The Master Agreement between the ILA and the USMX for the first time ever addresses a national money purchase pension plan for ILA that fall under the Master Contract.”

Granted, the video is meant to persuade the rank and file to vote yes on the new contract, but there is not much in the way of compromises the ILA seemed to make in favor of USMX. However, Daggett does bring up a setback and cancellation policy to give carriers additional flexibility if ships do not arrive on time that carriers need because of the larger ships that they now use. Even with that, there is protection for ILA workers.

Daggetts final remarks show how positively the ILA views the new tentative Master Contract:

“As you can see, the tentative agreement deals with many of the most pressing issues facing the ILA membership while bringing stability to the East and Gulf Coast ports. The document lays out a comprehensive approach to solving the economic problems that the ILA workforce is facing now and will be encountering over the next six years. Without a doubt, the tentative agreement is unique because it is perhaps the only collective bargaining agreement to date that imposes definite limits on automation while incorporating a workforce protection program for the implementation of new technology. In the end, this tentative agreement represents a giant step forward in the collective bargaining history of the ILA. Thank you for watching this video. We hope you will vote yes on the new contract. God bless you, and God bless the ILA.”

My expectations are that a majority of the rank and file will agree enough to approve the contract. Of course, we will keep an eye on this during the lead-up to the vote on the new contract and expiration of the current one.

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