Monday, January 9, 2012

Storm Clouds on the Horizon:

Longshoremen’s union ‘unloads’ on port operators over automation plans.

With N.Y.-N.J. port operations humming, union officials signaled their displeasure with operators’ labor-saving measures.

Volume rose 5.2 percent for imports through the Port of New York and New Jersey in November, reported the Journal of Commerce on January 6. Container traffic in the first 11 months of 2011 rose 5 percent year-over-year. Imports rose 4 percent and exports jumped 6.7 percent in the same period.

Monthly container traffic at the largest port on the U.S. East Coast expanded in nine of the first 11 months of 2011, according to port statistics. Import volume, which makes up about two-thirds of the port's traffic, has expanded in eight of the first 11 months in of the year.

Also on Friday, Jan. 6, the International Longshoreman’s Association (ILA) protested a New York-New Jersey container terminal’s labor-saving technology plan. More than 200 ILA members picketed, with signs reading “Build Jobs, Not Automated Terminals,” and “Stop Funding Unemployment.” Union officials said they were concerned that rail-mounted gantries and truck gates with OCR scanners to be used when the Global Terminal in Bayonne, N.J. is expanded would eliminate ILA jobs.

ILA president Harold Daggett has criticized automation, and said he will demand job guarantees for workers displaced by technology at Global and other ports. The ILA’s contract covering East Coast and Gulf of Mexico ports will expire Sept. 30, with the automation issue front and center, foreshadowing a heated battle over contract negotiations.

Should the dispute lead to interruptions in port operations, the stoppage would come just as the 2012 holiday season heats up.

Kirk Shearer
1-800-989-0054 x103

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