Shipping and Logistics

Maritime union suspends labor talks over automation dispute

Written by Laura Miller

Contract negotiations between the International Longshoremen’s Association (ILA) and the United States Maritime Alliance (USMX) have soured.

The ILA announced on Monday that it was suspending talks that were scheduled for Tuesday, June 11, and halting master contract negotiations.

With 85,000 longshore members along the East Coast, Gulf Coast, Great Lakes, Puerto Rico, and major US rivers, the ILA is North America’s largest union of maritime workers.

At issue is a dispute over automation. ILA said USMX members APM Terminals and Maersk Line are violating current agreements by using auto gate systems to autonomously process trucks without ILA labor. Initially found to be in use at the Port of Mobile in Alabama, ILA said the systems are reportedly in use at other ports as well.

“This is another example of USMX members unilaterally circumventing our coast-wide master contract. This is a clear violation of our agreement with USMX,” an ILA spokesperson said in a statement.

ILA International President Harold J. Daggett said, “There’s no point trying to negotiate a new agreement with USMX when one of its major companies continues to violate our current agreement.”

The ILA said it refuses to meet with USMX “until the auto gate issue is resolved,” but it “has very little faith that these issues will be addressed in time.” The current master contract expires on Sept. 30.

USMX did not respond to a request for comment.

APM Terminals/Maersk response

APM Terminals and Maersk Line are subsidiaries of the Danish international shipping and logistics conglomerate A.P. Moller-Maersk.

APM Terminals is “in full compliance with the ILA/USMX master contract,” a North American spokesperson for Maersk said in an email to SMU.

“We are disappointed that the ILA has chosen to make selected details of ongoing negotiations public in an effort to create additional leverage for their other demands,” the spokesperon said.

“We will continue to engage with all stakeholders, including the ILA, to address their concerns,” the spokesperson added. “APM Terminals, through the representation of the USMX, looks forward to resuming constructive negotiations with the ILA to find mutually beneficial solutions that support the future of our industry.”

Laura Miller

Read more from Laura Miller

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