Harold J. Daggett, President of the International Longshoremen’s Association (ILA) has voiced his opposition to fully automated terminals in the lead up to talks with management leaders from the United States Maritime Alliance beginning February 13.
The Association’s current six-year Master Contract will run until September 30, 2018, giving it 20 months to negotiate a new Master Contract at Atlantic and Gulf Coast ports or extend the current agreement.
“I predict the issue of automation will dominate our Master Contract talks,” he said. Just recently, the New York Times featured an article “The Long-Term Jobs Killer Is Not China. It’s Automation.” The article revealed some shocking statistics from an industry whose many workers are members of our fellow AFL-CIO affiliated union, the United Steel Workers.
“Between 1962 and 2005, the article said, the steel industry lost 400,000 jobs, totaling 75 percent of its workforce. Most startling for the displaced workers: shipments of steel did not decline over that period. Profits were maintained, while jobs were cut. The nearly half a million jobs lost in the steel industry was attributed to automation – new technology called the minimill.
“The ILA will not allow automation to rip apart our livelihoods and destroy our jobs and families. Right from the outset, the ILA intends to let management know that we are totally opposed to fully-automated terminals.”
Fully automated terminals will spell the end of longshoring jobs, no questions asked, said Daggett.
“The ILA has no problem with semi-automated terminals. We know that we cannot stop progress, and many forms of new technology help our workers do their jobs more efficiently, more safely, but without the threat of job elimination. We will continue to press for training and retraining for our ILA members.”
Another issue that the ILA intends to put greater emphasis on is local contract bargaining. The last time around, several ILA local ports had failed to reach agreement on their local contracts before the Master Contract was ratified in April 2013.
“Major ports like Baltimore, Hampton Roads and Charleston were without local agreements for months and even years after the Master Contract took effect. The ILA will make certain that ILA members at all ports are satisfied with their local agreements before we ask them to ratify the entire contract package,” says Daggett.
“The ILA enters these informal talks more united and stronger than ever. We look to work with our management partners keeping our industry strong and vibrant, but will not submit to agreeing on anything that eliminates jobs.”
The opinions expressed herein are the author's and not necessarily those of The Maritime Executive.