Tuesday, June 5, 2012
ILA's Daggett fires back
Shots were fired back across the bow of the group representing the East and Gulf Coast shipping industry by the president of the International Longshore Union regarding issues of new technology integration, chassis pools and container weights in a new proposed contract.
In a letter dated June 2, Harold Daggett, president of the ILA took his counterpart to task for what he termed were "personal attacks" in a previous letter posted on the USMX website last week that was signed by the employer group's chief executive, James Capo that had accused the waterfront union of making non-negotiable demands as the September 30 deadline for a new labor contract looms.
"I view your letter as a thinly veiled attempt to try to turn the ILA Wage Scale Delegates against me," wrote Daggett in the latest response to what has amounted to a publically waged war of words since the last round of meetings between the two sides ended in Tampa, Florida, back in March with no apparent progress made towards a contract agreement.
The introduction of new automated technologies related to cargo handling has emerged as the central bone of contention between the ILA and USMX as both sides appear to be at odds over the potential impact to waterfront jobs.
Capo's letter dated May 31 said that what Daggett "fails to recognize is that the current Collective Bargaining Agreement mandates that both sides negotiate over the impact new technology might have on the work force."
Daggett responded that he did "not need [Capo] to tell me what is in the Master Contract. I have been in this industry over 40 years and know firsthand how technology has affected our membership."
Daggett's latest letter goes on to say that a multi-year agreement over wages and benefits for ILA members "needs to be strengthened" as he wrote that the USMX's "true goal seems to be productivity for the shippers and unemployment for the ILA."
"My concern is that USMX wants to effectively eliminate the workforce through automation. If that happens, the wage and benefit package will not matter, since there will be very few ILA members working in your new automated terminals," Daggett said.
Another contentious issue that Capo pointed to last week was over chassis pools, as his group did not seem in favor of implicit language in the next contract stipulating ILA jurisdiction. The provision of chassis for containers has been shifting away from shipping lines to third party ownership.
Capo said having labor chassis jurisdiction "bound by the Master Contract" would be "impossible to achieve because USMX cannot legally force the pool operators to become members of the Alliance.
Daggett responded with: "…the ILA's concern is that carriers will sell their chassis and the ILA will lose that bargaining unit work."
The ILA's chief negotiator also defended his group's demand for all import containers to be weighed at pier before being released after Capo had asserted that it "would create more unneeded work, add unnecessary expense and increase congestion at the ports."
"That may be true," Daggett wrote in response, "but it would also assure that the ILA funds are not shortchanged monies and help save lives on the highways."
"The ILA has lost 14 members in the past year, due to workplace fatalities. Productivity can never trump the safety of my members and the protection of their employee benefit funds," Daggett said.
When the two sides might go back to the bargaining table is unclear, however, Daggett invited Capo and the USMX to a meeting of his Wage Scale Committee that commences June 27 in Delray Beach, Florida that he said could run through June 29.
"I am fully committed to addressing all of these issues and believe that our time would be better spent at the negotiating table," Daggett wrote.
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