Coast wide contract reached between dockworkers, port operators

Ratification votes on master deal and local pact to come

March 13, 2013|By Candy Thomson, The Baltimore Sun

The union representing 14,500 East Coast and Gulf longshoremen and the representative of 43 port operators and shipping companies completed negotiations on a six-year deal, a federal mediator announced Wednesday afternoon.

The terms of the Master Agreement will now go to the respective memberships of the International Longshoremen's Association and U.S. Maritime Alliance for ratification, said George Cohen, director of Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service. The Port of Baltimore has about 1,200 dockworkers represented by four locals.

Contracts between local union workers and individual ports also must been approved before the entire package can take effect. Three locals are continuing to negotiate, the ILA said. Calls to the Steamship Trade Association of Baltimore, which negotiates for port operators, and the local offices of the International Longshoremen's Association were not returned.

Under the terms of the Master Agreement, an experienced dockworker will receive a three-step hourly wage increase from $32 to $35 and a newly hired worker will be able to reach top scale in six years rather than nine years. Container royalties will not dip below the 2011 level of $211 million; USMX and ILA will divide anything over that amount.

The talks, which began a year ago, included two strike threats that would have crippled 14 ports from Maine to Texas. Major retailers warned that a work stoppage could have cost the nation's economy more than $1 billion per day.

"What this means in real life terms is that once again collective bargaining proved up to the task and played a major constructive role in helping to avoid a potential disruption that unquestionably would have had severe impact on the nation's economy — at the precise time that a significant recovery is in progress," Cohen said.

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