A temporary deal has been reached between the Longshoremen (ILA) and the United States Maritime Alliance (USMA) that will delay for 30 days a strike that was scheduled to start Sunday. The strike would have shut down East Coast ports from Boston to Miami, with 14,000 workers taking part. A strike will start at midnight Jan. 28 if a deal isn't reached by then.
Pat Garofalo at Think Progress takes a closer look at the issues at stake:
Management wants to cut workers' pay. The largest sticking point in the negotiations between the port workers and a coalition of companies known as the United States Maritime Alliance (USMA) is a payment to workers for each container they unload. Instituted in the 1960s, the payments are meant as compensation for the mechanization of America's ports, which allows one worker today to do what used to take three workers. As the New York Times explained, "The companies want to freeze those payments for current longshoremen and eliminate them for future hires." The companies also want to cut future raises for workers to below the rate of inflation.
The Federal Mediation & Conciliation Service announced the extension Friday:
The container royalty payment issue has been agreed upon in principle by the parties, subject to achieving an overall collective bargaining agreement. The parties have further agreed to an additional extension of 30 days (i.e., until midnight Jan. 28), during which time the parties shall negotiate all remaining outstanding master agreement issues, including those relating to New York and New Jersey. The negotiation schedule shall be set by the FMCS after consultation with the parties.
Given that negotiations will be continuing, and consistent with the agency’s commitment of confidentiality to the parties, FMCS shall not disclose the substance of the container royalty payment agreement. What I can report is that the agreement on this important subject represents a major positive step toward achieving an overall collective bargaining agreement. While some significant issues remain in contention, I am cautiously optimistic that they can be resolved in the upcoming 30-day extension period.