US east coast dock strike fears grow over resistance to ILA featherbedding

Time:2012-08-21 Browse:17 Author:RISINGSUN
FEARS have been expressed in the Port of Savannah over what they see is a growing possibility of a longshore strike on the US east coast despite reports of goodwill from both sides.

Sources told the Hong Kong Shipping Gazette in Savannah that International Longshoremen`s Association (ILA) is sticking by its demand to have men paid to do no work or hired to work on shifts at which they would not even report into work.

Employers are said to be resisting union featherbedding to guarantee pay for ILA men who do not work because of enlarged work gangs un-related to cargo-handling needs, a development which is also the result of union demands.

Dockers in Savannah are said to be unenthusiastic about a strike, according to port officials, but the union, which covers ports from Montreal, Canada, and along the east and Gulf coasts to Houston, Texas, will back union negotiators under the ILA`s all-for-one-one-for-all policy.

Attempts to talk to longshoremen on the Savannah waterfront by the Hong Kong Shipping Gazette elicited no response other than: "We just hope for the best."

Countering such speculation is another view that the ILA war chest is too small to sustain strike pay for a protracted work stoppage because of recent depletions to cover legal expenses in unrelated cases.

Officially, both sides say talks are going well and that many key issues have been resolved. The union contract expires in September at which point a strike becomes a legal option.

Some say the reason talks have resulted in easy agreement on technology and pay, because employers had not yet encountered the ILA demand that would be compensated by other means for any union willingness to forego significant gains in pay or job protection.

Dockers unions have lost many members through technology since the 1970s, and employers have kept the peace by offering higher pay to fewer men. Sophisticated supply chains create new functions, which are performed by non-union or other-union labour, reducing the need for longshoremen further.