The labour union and bosses for most of the US seaport industry are planning informal meetings in February as a way to pave the way to smoother official talks on replacing the labour master contract, which expires at the end of September 2018.
The International Longshoremen’s Association (ILA), represents 65,000-plus members at ports on the Atlantic, Gulf of Mexico, Great Lakes, major rivers, Puerto Rico and eastern Canada.
An ILA spokesman said all local branches from Maine to Texas are invited to get together in Delray Beach, Florida, on February 13 and 14 for discussions about collective bargaining matters.
Then union reps will meet with management representatives of the US Maritime Alliance (USMX) on February 15 and 16.
Major issues of interest to the ILA include automation and funding for the union medical plan.
Both sides and both coasts are keenly aware of the impasse in talks that caused slowdowns and terrible congestion at Pacific ports in 2015.
Pacific coast ports’ dockworkers are represented by the ILWU (International Longshore and Warehouse Union) who have their own contract with employers.
They have recently agreed with employers’ body the PMA (Pacific Maritime Association) to resume talks on extending their contract at an unspecified date.