Contract talks between the International Longshoremen’s Association (ILA) and the United States Maritime Alliance (USMX) broke down on Wednesday over union concerns about potentially job-killing automation, according to a report in the Journal of Commerce.
Talks were about making a five-year extension to the existing labour contract which expires on 30 September, 2018.
USMX represents an alliance of employers, port associations and container carriers serving the US east coast and Gulf coast.
The ILA represents dockworkers on the east coast of the US and Canada, the Gulf coast, the Great Lakes, Puerto Rico and inland waterways.
The main point of contention that led to the breakdown of talks was a disagreement over what constitutes an automated port.
Union officials fear employers aim to use automation to wipe out dockworker jobs entirely rather than have automated features that would be operated by workers.