Contract adds jobs, flexibilty at port

December 06, 1990|By John H. Gormley Jr.

While the new contract with clerical dockworkers gives their union additional jobs, the costs are justified by the increased flexibility it gives management and by the labor stability it will bring to the port, Maurice C. Byan, head of the Steamship Trade Association of Baltimore Inc., said yesterday.

The agreement reached Tuesday with Richard P. Hughes Jr., leader of Local 953 of the International Longshoremen's Association, ended a two-day strike. Operations in the port reached normal levels yesterday as the clerks and checkers of Local 953 returned to their jobs.

The contract agreement will mean an average of about one new ILA clerk's job for each ship calling on the port, Mr. Byan estimated. In return, management has won more flexible work rules permitting terminal operating hours much longer than those of Baltimore's competitors.

The new rules will make it more economical for terminals to stay open as much as 18 hours a day, compared with the current 8 hours. "That's a radical departure from the traditional ILA work hours," Mr. Byan said.

The longer hours should allow steamship lines to provide much better service to their customers by expanding the times at which cargo can be delivered or picked up at the piers. The longer hours also should mean substantial savings for some port businesses. "Truckers would love it," Mr Byan said.

The state, which sat in on the negotiations as an observer, has been sharply critical of the settlement with Mr. Hughes. Brendan O'Malley, executive director of the Maryland Port Administration, said Tuesday that the STA had given up too many jobs to Mr. Hughes and that the contract could hurt the port's competitiveness.

Mr. Byan called that criticism "unfortunate."

"The MPA has spent a lot of effort in marketing the port. The message they sent out is going to set that back," Mr. Byan said.

Three sources who participated in the negotiations said that when the management team was discussing what jobs to offer Mr. Hughes, Mr. O'Malley was present and did not raise strenuous objections to the package.

"They had the opportunity. They didn't comment one way or the other," another management source said. "They didn't have an opinion. They had to call somebody to get one."

He said the state's objections became stronger the next day, probably in response to instructions from Gov. William Donald Schaefer. But by that time the offer had already been made to Mr. Hughes and could not be withdrawn.

Mr. O'Malley could not be reached for comment yesterday.

Mr. Hughes, who blames the strike on interference by the state in the negotiations, said the state's representative in the talks never expressed to him any objections to the manning package offered by management. "Up until the last day I thought we were going to come out with the band playing," he said.

The final agreement should improve labor relations in the port for years to come, he said, since many jurisdictional issues have been resolved. "It alleviates great fears the ILA had about the intrusions of management and the state," he said.

A management source estimated that the new contract will mean about 30,000 additional man hours of work a year. That would mean Mr. Hughes had won back about a fifth of the 150,000 or so hours and 65 jobs he estimated the clerks lost in the previous contract.

One member of the management negotiating team, Michael H. Spieker, said the new contract should be beneficial to the port. "I think we've got a good package here," said Mr. Spieker, vice president of operations in Baltimore for NOSAC Inc., a Norwegian steamship line that specializes in the transportation of new cars and trucks.

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