Bargainers for port employers and dockworker union leaders were scheduled to return to the bargaining table today amid hope that a tentative agreement could be reached in time for a vote this week.
Members of the International Longshoremen's Association at the Port of Baltimore overwhelmingly approved last week a national contract agreement. Talks are still under way for a supplemental, local agreement that defines work rules unique to the port.
ILA leaders have asked for three days' leeway to schedule a meeting and membership vote before Friday's midnight deadline. The talks could, however, extend past Friday if both sides agree.
Meanwhile, bargainers at Hampton Roads, Va., chief rival of Baltimore, also were to meet today to try iron out the final elements of an agreement. An Associated Press story that appeared in Friday's Evening Sun incorrectly reported that a local agreement had been reached there last week.
"The principles have been agreed to but we have to work out some language issues," Ed Brown, ILA vice president at Hampton Roads, said yesterday.
Brown declined to specify the issues discussed there, but a source familiar with those talks said the union has agreed to add a midnight shift to handle ships that arrive late at night. In exchange, union workers would receive an eight-hour guarantee when assigned to such a shift and would receive premium pay at a rate of 1 1/2 times their regular, $18-an-hour pay.
The issue has been a hotly contested one in Hampton Roads, where the union's membership rejected in a special vote last year a plan that called for a third shift to load and unload barges.
Management officials are seeking a similar shift in Baltimore, along with a provision that would allow marine terminals to stay open longer during the day to receive and discharge cargo carried by train and on truck.