As the September 30thdeadline looms, labor negotiations between the International Longshoremen’s Association (ILA) and United States Maritime Alliance (USMX) committees are scheduled to meet in Florida, June 5-7, in hopes of reaching an East and Gulf coast master, six-year contract.
Historically, negotiations haven’t been agreeable between port operators and labor unions. The West Coast saw extreme gridlock from work slowdowns (2014-2015) and even a 10-day lockout (in 2002) that have slowly shifted volumes to East Coast ports; market share that East and Gulf Coast are not willing to give up. ILA-USMX representatives met in December, when talks halted over the acceptability of automated terminals, but resumed in March announcing both parties were in a good place for upcoming meetings in June.
Both parties are also proactively pushing for local contracts to be settled before the master agreement is finalized to avoid any delays heading into peak season under pressures from industry groups such as the National Retail Federation, representing over 100 beneficial cargo owners (BCO). The master, coast wide agreement encompasses wages, carrier royalties, and medical benefits, while local contracts negotiate region-specific details such as port requirements, pension programs, and overall work rules.
For the time being, the weather is fair with smooth sailing for East and Gulf Coast ports as discussions report positive progress.
Regardless, shippers should discuss contingency procedures with their shipping providers for flexible routing options.
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