Dispatch Dynamics’ Virtual Hiring Hall Solves Labor Problems

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Published Mar 31, 2020 5:26 PM by The Maritime Executive

Amid increasingly stringent mandates limiting social interaction in response to the current Coronavirus pandemic, a Virtual Hiring Hall developed by a Charleston-based company as part of a labor-specific software suite could be the key to keeping large labor forces working – on schedule and without risk of exposure.

Harbor Watch, a scheduling, dispatching, communications and archiving software program developed for the maritime industry by Dispatch Dynamics Inc., has provided hiring and dispatch functionality for the International Longshoremen’s Association for more than six years. And according to DDI president and CEO Jody Newman, a virtual version of the Harbor Watch hiring/dispatch program, developed over the past year, provides a safe and efficient way to schedule and dispatch any mobile labor force, regardless of the business or industry, without workers ever having to gather in a union hall.

“Our Harbor Watch Virtual Hiring Hall provides all the functionality of a brick-and-mortar union hall, but without any of the risks associated with the COVID-19 pandemic that has now touched all corners of the world,” Newman said. “With the safety and convenience of their mobile phones, employers, union officials and workers can literally do everything they do in the union hall, without the inherent and increasingly dangerous risks that come with face-to-face contact in those same halls.”

Newman explained that, with the Virtual Hiring Hall functionality of Harbor Watch, work orders are displayed on a mobile website and, using their mobile phones, members of the labor force indicate their availability for work, according to shift and job. Members are scheduled and dispatched to jobs via text message and members’ personal web pages are updated in real-time to document all work assignments and work history, as well as record all text messages. 

With Harbor Watch, dispatch notifications and instant text messages can be sent from any remote location via any tablet or laptop with a Wi-Fi or mobile hotspot connection. Every step of the remote hiring process – from work orders to scheduling to dispatching – is viewable in real time by union members, even as jobs are being filled and scheduled by the dispatcher.

The system is already in operation at multiple ILA Locals on the East Coast, including Local 1593 in Jacksonville, Fla.

“(Our) clerks are hooked on Harbor Watch live dispatch like a smoker to nicotine,” said Mark Ortega, president of Local 1593. “They watch the live scheduling like a TV show every night as the dispatcher fills jobs … No going back now. They couldn’t function without it.”

Given widespread bans on assembly by groups of more than 10 persons, remote hiring provides the only reasonable hiring solution for labor forces that traditionally “muster” in union halls in order to assign jobs. And according to internet search engines, Harbor Watch is the only scheduling/dispatching/communication software built specifically for the maritime industry. For that reason alone, it’s little wonder DDI’s Harbor Watch is being considered by major labor organizations on with west coasts of both the United States and Canada. 

DDI has offered to provide Virtual Hiring Hall options for any ILA local. But beyond its maritime applications, Harbor Watch software is perfectly suited to any mobile work force, regardless of size, in any segment of industry or government.

“Along the entire East and Gulf coasts, longshoremen are responsible for loading and unloading countless tons of cargo from container ships in our seaports every day,” said Newman. “Because of archaic hiring practices , hundreds, and in some areas thousands, of International Longshoremen muster (gather) in large hiring halls for daily job assignments. Because of their own resistance to change, members of these same ILA unions could be at risk, in light of the current and growing health threat posed by the Coronavirus.

“As government officials and health agencies like the CDC further restrict our social activities – to the point that some states are already banning gatherings of more than 10 people – business leaders are going to have to modify the way they do business day to day. If they can’t come up with a way to modify their work practices, labor officials may be forced to postpone or even cancel work activity as large gatherings are banned for the safety and well-being of employees and the community. 

“Our Virtual Hiring Hall,” Newman added, “provides any labor force that has historically mustered in a union hall a way to safely and efficiently continue doing business as usual, while taking advantage of 21st-century technology to better manage and record all labor activity of each and every worker.”

Any labor official, employer or other interested party can learn more about Harbor Watch and its Virtual Hiring Hall by going to DispatchDynamics.com. Company contact information, as well as Newman’s business e-mail address, is included on the website.

The products and services herein described in this press release are not endorsed by The Maritime Executive.