LOS ANGELES – The International Longshore and Warehouse Union and the Pacific Maritime Association reached a crucial tentative agreement related to technology and union jurisdiction on Nov. 1. The tentative deal marks a turning point in the contentious contract battle that has been raging since May 1.

Steve Stallone, ILWU communications director, told the World that the PMA met the bottom-line concerns of the union related to the impact of new technology on union jurisdiction and marine clerks’ work. “This is a major victory for the union and the first real progress we have made in these negotiations,” said Stallone.

Under an agreement arrived at with the federal mediator assigned under the Taft-Hartley injunction, details of the technology package will not be released until the entire contract package has been negotiated.

While the ILWU agreed to the introduction of new technology early in negotiations, the union insisted that new jobs that came with it should be union jobs, a demand which the PMA previously balked at. The ILWU also insists that there be compensation to the union related to saving the PMA at least $200 million a year with the technology agreement. The union wants the compensation in pension increases. Until this is resolved the technology agreement will not be final.

There are still major issues to be addressed in the three-year labor contract, which will affect 29 major West Coast ports and 10,500 dockworkers, but the tentative agreement on technology overcame a major issue that has loomed large in these negotiations from day one. The health package had previously been tentatively signed off on, another major bottom-line issue for the ILWU. Among the issues yet to be resolved are pension plans and arbitration.

The ILWU membership must vote on the whole contract package before it becomes final. Voting will not begin until an entire contract package has been agreed to by the ILWU negotiating team and the PMA.

Negotiations have been adjourned until Nov. 13 while the PMA purportedly considers the union proposals related to the pension plan. Since the technology/pension matter has been on the agenda for three years, the PMA must know the math well, so the employer call for an adjournment may very well reflect division in the PMA ranks, or a wait-and-see of how election results may beef up Bush administration support for employers.

An article appearing in the Journal of Commerce on Nov. 5 indicates that employers are divided on the tentative technology agreement. The article says that sources inside the PMA say the division is over a provision that expands the jurisdiction of the ILWU by giving labor authority over planning jobs at West Coast ports.

Some employers, the article says, are “incensed” over the agreement that “establishes a control center, staffed by ILWU marine clerks, to manage the free flow of information.”

The author can be reached at evnalarcon@aol.com

PDF version of ‘Tech agreement an ILWU victory’