- The International Longshoreman's Association (ILA) and the United States Maritime Alliance (USMX) will resume contract negotiations, American Shipper reported. ILA broke off talks with USMX in December over proposals for automation at terminals.
- A group of more than 100 associations, including the National Retail Federation and U.S. Chamber of Commerce, sent a letter Friday encouraging ILA and USMX to resume talks, to "provide supply chain stakeholders with the certainty they need for their operations."
- The existing contract between the union and the employers' alliance will expire at the end of this September. The goal of completing the contract is to keep ocean cargo moving at ports on the Atlantic and Gulf coasts.
The debate over automation is one that often puts companies at odds with unions. The companies, seeking to streamline operations while also lowering costs, usually favor automation that can deliver those results. Labor unions, however, looking out for the best interests of their workers, fear automation will eliminate jobs.
In many cases, employers have found the best method is an integration of automation with human labor. Robotics technology becomes an extension of the human labor, where the two work side by side.
We might ultimately see a combination of automation and labor come out of the talks between ILA and USMX. On the other hand, it's also possible negotiations will remain stagnant, with the two groups unable to agree on a contract in the next six months.
If that's the case, it's bad news for shippers and carriers. Without a contract, workers can strike, which can lead to severe congestion at ports along the Atlantic and Gulf coasts. Carriers face delays, and in turn, shippers face delays.
It's no wonder more than 100 organizations are calling on ILA and USMX to resume negotiations now — there's a lot at stake, and only six months to come to an agreement.