The International Longshoremen’s Association (ILA) has suspended negotiations over a new labour contract with the United States Maritime Alliance (USMX).

Strike risks rise as US ports, industrial relations ease in Canada

Source: DSV

The ILA, which represents labour across the East Coast and Gulf Coast ports, said the talks were cancelled as automated technology was employed by APM Terminals (APMT) and Maersk to process trucks at port terminals.

Protestations from the ILA related to the new auto gates not requiring unionised labour, specifically longshore checkers, which the organisation claims breach its agreement with the USMX.

ILA president Harold J. Daggett described introducing the new technology as having “the sole aim of eliminating ILA jobs through automation.”

Dagget cited Pier 400 at the port of Los Angeles and the introduction of semi-automated cranes at the port of Virginia, which had previously led to job reductions for longshore workers.

The union also noted an increase in IT personnel at marine terminals, raising concerns that APM Terminals and Maersk’s IT departments are encroaching on ILA’s jurisdiction.

ILA is also conducting an audit to assess the impact of these technologies on other jobs at marine terminals, with results pending.

A Maersk spokesman told CNBC that APMT remains “in full compliance with the ILA/USMX Master Contract”.

“We are disappointed that the ILA has chosen to make selected details of ongoing negotiations public to create additional leverage for their other demands. We will continue to engage with all stakeholders, including the ILA, to address their concerns,” Maersk’s spokesman added.

Talks were scheduled to commence on June 11 but will remain on hold until the issues surrounding the Auto Gate system are resolved. The current master contract is set to expire on September 30.

Canadian strike updates

As industrial relations sour in US ports, progress has been in disputes between Canadian workers and local authorities.

In Vancouver port labour negotiations, union leadership has agreed to present the British Columbia Maritime Employers Association (BCMEA)’s most recent proposal to its members for a vote.

This poll is poised to be completed by June 15. If the proposal is accepted, the labour agreement will be ratified the following Monday.

In the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) negotiations, both parties say they are committed to reaching an agreement with the assistance of federal mediators.

The CBSA Union initially indicated a strike on Friday, June 7 but that industrial action has been postponed.