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Longshoremen union members ratify six-year contract with eastern ports

International Longshoremen's Association (ILA) members on Tuesday overwhelmingly ratified a new six-year master contract covering about 14,500 waterfront workers at Atlantic and Gulf coast ports.

ILA had negotiated with the United States Maritime Alliance (USMX) — which represents container carriers and port associations along the East and Gulf coasts — for more than a year and extended an existing contract for several months before reaching a contract settlement in early February with the help of a federal mediator, ending the threat of a potential port strike. USMX members will submit their ratification votes on April 17.

The contract calls for wage increases totaling $3 an hour over the life of the agreement, increasing workers' pay to $35 an hour.

"Lower tiered workers will enjoy an even higher wage percentage increase as their pay progression scale was shortened to six years from nine years in the new agreement," ILA officials said in a press release.

In addition, contract language "strongly protects" ILA-represented workers who have been displaced due to new technology and automation, and restricts the outsourcing or subcontracting of jobs to non-unionized employers, they said.

Along with the master contract, nearly all ILA local agreements on the Atlantic and Gulf coasts also were ratified by members, with the exception of ports in Baltimore, Philadelphia and Norfolk, Va.

"Those port areas were permitted to continue negotiating their local agreements and are expected to complete them early next week," ILA officials said.

National Retail Federation (NRF) officials hailed the contract's ratification as a move toward bringing much-needed certainty and efficiency to port operations for supply chain stakeholders, importers and exporters.

The ratified contract "is welcomed news to the nation's retailers, who have been on pins-and-needles for the past year due to the possibility of a supply chain disruption along the 14 East and Gulf coast container ports," said NRF Vice President for Supply Chain and Customs Policy Jonathan Gold. "The ILA and United States Maritime Alliance should be commended for reaching [the] pinnacle vote, and doing so without engaging in any disruption, stoppage, lockout or strike."

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

More News from 4/10/2013