Tuesday, July 17, 2012
Another retailer group urges ILA-USMX to avoid work disruption
On the heels of last week's call by the Retail Industry Leaders Association to East and Gulf Coast shipping industry labor and management to get a contract agreement in hand "well in advance" of the September 30 deadline, another retailer group has relayed its members' concerns that "any supply chain disruption" could "jeopardize the fragile U.S. economy recovery" and cause potential re-routing of cargo.
"It is important to note that even the perceived risk of a disruption has already forced retailers and other shippers to reevaluate their use of East and Gulf Coast ports," wrote Matthew Shay, president and CEO of the National Retail Federation in a letter to ILA President Harold Daggett and James Capo, chairman and chief executive of the United States Maritime Alliance.
Shay urged the two sides "to issue a statement committing to continue negotiating and working without interruption, even if negotiations extend beyond the September 30 contract expiration."
The ILA and USMX both recently confirmed they were re-engaged with negotiations in Delray Beach, Florida this month as both sides claimed to their respective members that there had been "significant discussions" on "critical items of importance" and that "substantial progress" has been made over areas such as terminal automation, chassis pools, wages, and benefits.
"The ILA is hopeful that a tentative agreement can be reached during the next round of talks in late July," said Daggett in a notice to his members.
The USMX's Capo wrote to his membership: "While clearly there are many issues to be resolved, I am confident that both sides recognize the importance of reaching an agreement."
Prior to July, there were heated public exchanges amid on-and-off talks that centered on the contentious issues of new technology implementation and chassis jurisdiction.
Fears of a possible work stoppage by the over 14,000 union workers from Maine to Texas operating at 14 ports have rippled throughout the shipping industry.
Shay's letter referenced the 2002 labor lockout at the West Coast ports during contract difficult negotiations that resulted in a 10-day stoppage, citing estimated costs to the U.S. economy at that time of several billion dollars a day.
"These negotiations are important to all of the import and export industries who rely on these ports to move the nation's commerce," Shay wrote.
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