Date: 7th November 2023
The president of the International Longshoremen’s Association (ILA) which represents over 70,000 dockworkers on the east coast of the US and Canada, the Gulf Coast, the Great Lakes, Puerto Rico and inland waterways, has warned of a possible strike next year if the union doesn’t reach a deal with employers.
Earlier this year, the union’s top man warned there would be no extensions of the current six-year pact with the United States Maritime Alliance (USMX).
ILA, which has been fighting potentially job-killing automation at ports, has pledged not to extend the contract beyond the expiration date at the end of September and expects USMX, representing an alliance of employers, port associations and container carriers serving the US East and Gulf coasts, “to deliver a landmark compensation package”.
The ILA said the union will present an update on contract negotiations on November 7 and caution its members to “prepare for the possibility of a coast-wide strike in October 2024” as the ILA “will hold firm on its pledge” regarding contract extension.
“It’s time for foreign companies like Maersk and MSC to realise that you need us as much as we need you,” the union said in August, adding that: “If it goes to the wire, I will guarantee there will be no extensions and we will be out in the street.”
Commenting on the potential strike next year via LinkedIn, the container advisory Vespucci Maritime, said: “The threat of a strike places pressure on USMX as the mere threat of a strike could cause shippers to pre-emptively move cargo to the West Coast. The threat is likely, not idle at all, but saber-rattling at this point is to be expected irrespectively.”
The current deal was struck in September 2018, when the two sides agreed on landmark protections for ILA members against automation job losses, maintaining a premier National Health Care Plan (MILA) and salary increases.
In June this year, the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU), representing 22,000 dockworkers at nearly 30 US West Coast ports and the Pacific Maritime Association (PMA) employer group reached a tentative deal on a new six-year contract, ending 13 months of talks and easing supply chain worries. The deal, which is retroactive to July 1, 2022, was brokered by the US government and retried at the end of August. It included a 32% pay increase throughout the contract until July 2028 as well as a one-time bonus for working through the early days of the covid pandemic.