Unionized longshoremen who work the docks at the port of Baltimore refused to sign new contract proposals from their employers, opting once again to extend a labor standoff.
Container shipping is unaffected as the union at the centre of the row, the International Longshoremen’s Association (ILA) has already agreed terms for moving the box freight.
Handling of the general cargo continues however, after the strike action last October was deemed illegal by a federal arbitrator who recently levied $3.8 million damage award to the port operators. The ILA declined to comment when we asked for their position on whether they considered this legal and whether they were prepared to pay up. What the union apparently did do however, in what is an unusual move, was to strongly support the local union branch, Local 333, with national officials publicly backing the longshoremen’s stand just at a point many felt they might have been prepared to settle for the latest contract terms on offer.
The ILA stand is possibly political, Dennis Daggett, President of the ILA’s Atlantic Coast District, told members that refusing to cooperate with the latest offer puts the union in a stronger negotiating position regarding settlement of the outstanding penalty. When the ballot was taken workers were confronted by a ‘Vote No’ placard bearing the President’s plea. This whole mess arose when the ILA members October stoppage included cessation of work on container traffic as well as the general freight, an illegality as the aforementioned agreed terms expressly forbade cross trade interference.
The employers at the Maryland port are represented by the Steamship Trade Association of Baltimore which also seems reluctant to make any comment regarding the situation. Although work continues, the uncertainty surrounding the labour situation is bound to have an effect upon corporate stakeholders such as the shipping lines who are doubtless receiving offers elsewhere.
The contract has been the source of heated negotiations for months between the union and the Steamship Trade Association of Baltimore, which represents port employers.
RCL Agency will continue to monitor the situation and report further updates once available.