U.S. East Coast port negotiations push for resolution
Contract conditions for U.S. East and Gulf Coast dock workers will return to the table today (Monday, Dec. 10) for three days of negotiations between the International Longshoremen's Association (ILA) and the U.S. Maritime Alliance (USMX).
The master contract for Atlantic coast workers was set to expire Sept. 30 but the deadline was extended until Dec. 29 to avoid port strikes.
The week's meetings in Delray Beach, Florida will negotiate terms regarding wages, benefits and jurisdiction, among other things, for workers handling cargo shipped in containers, explained ILA Vice President James H. Paylor.
"There’s still a lot of work to do. It doesn’t mean it can’t be done. There’s got to be more understanding. The fact that we have the federal mediation involved in it, that helps move the moves the process along. It creates another sense of optimism," he said.
Paylor did not rule out the possibility of a strike but remained hopeful that such a scenario could be avoided.
He assured that if a resolution could not be met, special conditions would be established for perishable products such as fruits and vegetables.
"Even if there was a strike, perishables would be protected. We’re not trying to cause disruptions in a global economy. It’s just that there are some serious matters that have to be addressed. But perishables are going to be looked at just as what they are: perishables," he said.
"I think what hasn’t been decided - because the emphasis has been put on trying to reach an agreement – is that if the worst case scenario played out, is what would be the definition of perishable."
Maintaining special standards for perishable products can be difficult, however. The content of containers are not always clear until the containers have been opened, Paylor explained. Workers must depend on the accuracy of manifests to determine if they are dealing with such goods.