State asked for hard line with clerks Port managers urged to 'take on Hughes'

December 16, 1990|By John H. Gormley Jr.

After the clerical dockworkers led by Richard P. Hughes Jr. went on strike in the port of Baltimore two weeks ago, state officials implored management negotiators to take back their earlier offer of additional jobs and "take on Hughes," even if that meant prolonging the strike, according to a report on the talks.

The internal report, written by Brendan W. O'Malley, executive director of the Maryland Port Administration, was obtained by The Sun.

The additional staffing resisted by the state would mean about 23 more clerical jobs in the port, the report said. That represents restoration of a little more than a third of the 65 jobs that management estimates were cut in January during negotiations that also culminated in a strike.

Describing his unsuccessful efforts to get management to retract what he considered an overly generous contract that would hurt the port's competitive position, Mr. O'Malley wrote, "I suggested strongly the time would never be better to take on Hughes and gain greater control of clerical activities in the Port of Baltimore. At a minimum, I implored the group to withdraw parts of the original offer due to the fact that the strike had made the entire offer moot."

After the clerks belonging to Local 953 of the International Longshoremen's Association walked out Monday morning Dec. 3, the state launched an intense lobbying effort to persuade management negotiators to retract the offer of increased jobs that Mr. Hughes had rejected before going on strike.

In his report, Mr. O'Malley said that on that Monday night, every member of the Steamship Trade Association management negotiating team was contacted and asked to withdraw or amend the contract offer. Mr. O'Malley and Michael Angelos, general manager of the state subsidiary that oversees the port's new $250 million Seagirt Marine Terminal, sat in on the negotiations as observers, but no state representatives were permitted to take part in the actual bargaining.

One negotiator for the STA, Thomas Simmers, head of ITO Corp. of Baltimore Inc., was a particular target of the state's lobbying.

The state has significant leverage over ITO, since the company, under a contract with the state, is in charge of day-to-day operations at Seagirt.

Mr. Simmers was warned that his contract with the state restricted the ability of ITO to pass on to customers increased costs resulting from changes in the local agreement with the ILA, according to one source. According to the source, Mr. Angelos was instructed "to remind Simmers" that any additional costs at Seagirt required by the local contract would be "to his account."

That message was delivered orally to Mr. Simmers "to stiffen him up" in the negotiations with Mr. Hughes, the source said.

The following day -- Tuesday Dec. 4, the second day of the strike -- Mr. O'Malley and Mr. Angelos again pleaded with management to hold out for a better deal, according to the O'Malley report. The negotiators were told that "Hughes had abrogated the original agreement by striking" and that the offer was therefore "effectively removed from the table."

In fact, management did not bend to the state's wishes and repeated its same manning offer to Mr. Hughes Tuesday. Mr. Hughes accepted that offer, coupled with language stating that the local agreement would not infringe on any jurisdiction over computer work given to Mr. Hughes under the master contract governing all ILA ports.

In addition, Mr. Hughes received a letter saying management would not use certain fringe-benefit contributions for anything but the pension and medical benefits Mr. Hughes wanted to protect.

That ended the strike. But the agreement did not heal the rifts that opened among the three major elements in the negotiations:

* The clerks, led by Mr. Hughes.

* The state government under Gov. William Donald Schaefer.

* Management, represented by the Steamship Trade Association Baltimore Inc.

Because of the strike, the animosity between Mr. Hughes and the governor has deepened. The governor has assumed a great personal stake in the port over the last year, traveling around the world to sell the port

to try to spread the message that Baltimore had put its labor troubles behind it.

"Everything I have done," Mr. Schaefer said last week, was "totally undone" by the strike.

Relations between Mr. Hughes and the governor were already bad when the negotiations began because of Mr. Schaefer's role in pressing management to make deep job cuts in clerical jobs in the old contract worked out in January.

That contract resulted in the loss of about 65 clerical jobs, according to management.

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