- The International Longshoremen's Association (ILA) this week released a video urging its members to approve an $18.3 billion labor deal with the United States Maritime Alliance (USMX) and secure port peace through 2024.
- ILA Executive Vice President Dennis Daggett described the deal as "a giant step forward" in the history of the union. "We can't quantify the value of the protections we received on automation," he said in the video.
- The deal prohibits fully automated terminals and equipment, creates a model for workforce protection as technology creates new jobs, outlines an expedited arbitration process to address labor grievances, and boosts wages, vacation and healthcare compensation.
The video provided the first details of what forms of automation shippers and carriers can expect to see at East and Gulf Coast ports over the next six years, and the checks made to protect union labor throughout the time.
Most groundbreaking is the outright prohibition of fully automated terminals and equipment at ILA-manned ports through October 2024, when the contract expires.
"Fully automated is defined as machinery or equipment that is devoid of human interaction," Daggett explained. Semi-automated equipment, however, is permitted so long as "both parties agree to workforce protection and staffing levels."
Prior to deploying this equipment, parties representing the port employers and union workers were required to define the manning levels for any new equipment, a head count of positions affected, a new rate of pay for new positions created by the technology and a definition of new work required, and training for ILA workers.
"Without a doubt, the tentative agreement is unique because it is perhaps the only collective bargaining agreement to date that imposes definite limits to automation while incorporating a workforce protection program for the implementation of new technology," Daggett said.
The ILA also conceded a few points of flexibility to carriers and port employers in the new contract.
"The ILA has had to recognize that with larger ships coming online and resulting additional restrictions, the carriers need flexibility when vessels do not arrive as scheduled," Daggett said. As a result, the contract includes a framework for new policies on setbacks and how to allocate labor to handle these events.
Similarly, the ILA and the USMX agreed to jointly implement a data collection system for wages, hours and other record keeping systems at ports, to conduct a study evaluating the port authority model, and to continue to address outstanding issues such as labor at off-pier security yards.
The new master contract will not enter force until the ILA membership votes to ratify the deal next month. The current contract expires at the end of September. In the meantime, the details provided by the video present an outline of the new technologies and labor debates ports and carriers will have over the next six years.