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Local union walks out of port contract talks

Keywords: Tags  International Longshoremen's Association, New York Shipping Association, U.S. Maritime Alliance, contract negotiations, Samuel Frizell

NEW YORK — Talks between the International Longshoremen’s Association (ILA) and the New York Shipping Association (NYSA) have broken down, casting a shadow over next week’s master contract negotiations between the union and the U.S. Maritime Alliance (USMX).

The regional negotiations—an effort to hash out local work rules and crew sizes ahead of larger East and Gulf coast contract negotiations with umbrella group USMX next week—came to a halt Wednesday morning when the ILA walked out after the NYSA proposed general cuts and reduced crew sizes, a union spokesman told AMM.

"They were asking for drastic cuts and major changes in work rules and gang sizes," the spokesman said. "They wanted reductions in almost all the areas of the local negotiations. ... We thought we were much further along than that."

The NYSA, which represents marine cargo operators in the Port of New York and New Jersey, said it wanted to discuss "excessive manning archaic work practices" and it was "ready to bargain."

"We were—and are—prepared to discuss ideas suggested by the ILA. But by walking out, the ILA leadership demonstrated its unwillingness to engage in a serious conversation about the changes necessary to ensure the viability of the Port of New York and New Jersey," NYSA chief labor negotiator Joseph Curto said in a statement.

The union spokesman said the proposals were the same as those made six months ago and were "totally unacceptable."

"They did end sooner than expected," the ILA spokesman said of the talks. "Hopefully, we’ll make some progress."

A master contract that applies to all East and Gulf coast ports must be negotiated along with local contracts that govern holidays, pensions and local rules. Local negotiations were held up and down the East Coast Wednesday, while negotiations for the master contract with the USMX are scheduled for Jan. 15, 16 and 17. Both the master and local contracts must be settled by Feb. 6 to avert a threatened strike, the ILA spokesman said.

The contracts were originally set to expire in December, but the negotiation deadline was extended to Feb. 6, averting a strike by about 15,000 members of the ILA (, Dec. 28). Prior to the extension, ports and logistics companies had already started preparing for the possible strike, with some ports mulling contingency plans and alternative shipping points.

Logistics firm OHL Trade Services said in a letter to customers this week that it was continuing to watch the developments with caution. "The issues surrounding the ILA-NYSA talks are raising concerns in the cargo industry," it said.

The union said it would not handle containerized cargo during a possible work stoppage, although it would still load and unload unfrozen perishable commodities, containerized mail, passenger ships, containerized military cargo excluding household goods, and non-containerized cargo and automobiles, according to the ILA’s website.

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