USMX CEO ‘Cautiously Optimistic’ About Reaching Agreement Without DisruptionMay 8, 2012
The following is a copy of remarks as prepared for delivery before the National Industrial Transportation League May 8 in Arlington, Va.
Let me start by saying that I’m hopeful – and maybe even cautiously optimistic – that we can reach an agreement without any disruption to the supply chain and our port operations. I’m feeling this way because of the history of the ILA and USMX at the bargaining table.
Over the last several contracts, USMX and the ILA have successfully negotiated contracts without any service disruptions on the East and Gulf Coasts. We’re proud of that legacy of cooperation and understanding. But more importantly, I believe that both sides recognize the importance of reaching an agreement – because it will keep ILA members working, terminals and ports operating, and the cargo pipeline flowing.
I believe that both sides, the ILA and USMX, clearly recognize that failure to reach an agreement by the September 30th deadline is not an option. I think we both understand that successful negotiations are not only in the best interests of USMX members, ILA members, and perhaps most importantly, all of our customers in the shipping community.
Labor and management have worked closely together for decades to create a climate of peace and stability on the East and Gulf Coasts. It has helped us attract and maintain additional cargo. It instills confidence in our shipping community. And stability and confidence are good for our nation’s economy.
We all recognize the economic significance of the East and Gulf Coast longshore industry, and the vital role we play in the flow of international trade and commerce – the lifeblood of the nation’s economy and more than half a million shipping-related jobs.
In 2011, millions of containers passed through our ports. They carried more than 110 million tons of import and export cargo, accounting for 95 percent of all containerized shipments from Maine to Texas.
I’d be less than honest if I didn’t acknowledge there are challenges that must be addressed in these negotiations – challenges that will impact both USMX and the ILA.
Our mission in this bargaining is to protect the industry’s market share and its ability to compete in a global economy. In order to achieve this mission, industry must continue to introduce the use of new technology. Technology allows us to increase the capacity of our ports, attract capital, and promote growth. And growth is the best guarantee of jobs.
But we also recognize the obligation we have to bargain over the impact the introduction of new technology may have on the workforce.
Technology will play an even more important role with the coming expansion of the Panama Canal. We have to be prepared to handle increased volumes and throughputs in our ports.
Both sides must examine the industry’s current cost structures. We must be willing to address restrictive and redundant work rules, manning practices and other cost impediments – some of which go back as far as the breakbulk days – all of which hurt our global competitive posture.
A lot of the things we do don’t make sense in today’s environment. They have to be reviewed.
Many of the USMX and ILA issues are basically the same. The only difference is how we each approach those issues—and the challenge of working together to resolve them.
Since negotiations began, it is my belief that we can continue moving forward in the give and take of negotiation, reach an agreement that is four-fold: it recognizes the challenges both sides face together, it acknowledges the connection between the ability to grow and good-paying jobs, it is fair to both sides, and in the end, provides positive outcomes for our customer base.