According to multiple industry media sources, members of the International Longshoremen's Association (ILA) at the Port of Charleston have voted in favor of a strike, though no labor action has been initiated. The threat of a strike is being viewed as a negotiation ploy to pressure local contract negotiations involving pension funding, jurisdiction over port work performed by state employees, and the representation of private stevedores who coordinate cargo movement on and off-board vessels. This latest instance of potential labor disruption comes as ocean shippers anxiously await a resolution on contract negotiations between the Pacific Maritime Association (PMA) and the International Longshore Warehouse Union (ILWU), with the current West Coast master contract set to expire at midnight on June 30.
Local contracts at U.S. East and Gulf Coast ports supplement the master contract ratified by ILA members in April 2013. Though the coast-wide agreement includes no-strike clauses, the ILA clerks and checkers' local in Charleston conducted a brief walkout in August 2013 before being forced back to work by a court order. Last fall, the ILA Local 333 in Baltimore unsuccessfully challenged the no-strike clause when union members struck for three days over issues such as pay for breakbulk and automobile handling, pension funding and local work rules. Ultimately, an arbitrator ruled that the labor action defied the master contact's stipulations regarding containerized and RoRo cargo, and employers were awarded over $3.8 million in damages. The majority of the port of Charleston's volume is containerized, which is specifically protected from strikes underthe master contract.
SPARX logistics will continue to monitor the labor situation at U.S. ports and will keep our customers informed of the latest developments. If you have any questions or concerns related to specific shipments, please contact your SPARX representative.