The focus of longshoremen's contract talks now returns to Baltimore, where bargainers have until Nov. 30 to achieve an agreement to augment a national pact settled yesterday in Miami Beach, Fla.
Local delegations for both management and the International Longshoremen's Association returned to Baltimore today, where talks could resume again shortly. The national, or master, contract affects issues common to the 36 ILA ports from Maine to Texas.
"It's good news that we have a contract," said David Bindler, chairman of the local management committee, the Steamship Trade Association, and regional head of Maersk Inc., a major ship line at the port.
"I'm glad to see they've got that out of the way, now we can get back to local talks," Bindler said.
The trade association is one of several management signatories to the new contract. Details of the pact were being withheld pending ratification by rank and file members. A vote is not expected until local ports have reached their separate agreements, according to a statement by the New York Shipping Association and the ILA.
The statement added that the national pact would not become effective until all the local agreements are in place. That could put added pressure on ports like Baltimore where some problems remain.
Local contract talks, affecting about 2,000 dockworkers, got off to a rough start with a dispute over the composition of the union's bargaining committee. ILA Local 953, representing cargo clerks, wants to bargain a contract apart from the umbrella pact affecting the port's four other ILA locals.
Management has resisted this but lost a complaint filed with the National Labor Relations Board. It has appealed to the labor board in Washington and it is not clear when a decision will be made.
Management officials were to meet today to decide how to proceed with the talks. Informal talks have been held between the trade association and all the locals, including 953, in recent weeks though participants stopped short of calling them formal negotiations.
One source familiar with the local talks said bargainers had tried to settle several of the most contentious issues in national talks, leading to the possibility of smoother local talks. A dispute over an extension of the local pact led to a three-day strike this January.
The current local and national contracts expire at midnight Nov. 30.