Labor Union Summit Focuses on Automation Issue

Press Release
Monday, September 17, 2012

The ILWU and ILA recently met in Washington, D.C.: first item on agenda was report on progress of East Coast USA contract negotiations.

The meeting was attended also by ITF President and Maritime Union of Australia (MUA) National Secretary Paddy Crumlin and ITF Maritime Coordinator Steve Cotton.

The first item of business was a report from ILA President Harold Daggett on the progress of the New East Coast contract, particularly on the outcome of negotiations on the introduction of automation to the terminals covered under the contract.  The ILA President reported that job security for displaced ILA members, including retraining into new maintenance jobs, was central to any agreed outcome.  Further reports were received from ILWU President Bob McEllrath about future automation in West Coast terminals.

Elsewhere, and in Australia, but also on the introduction of dock automation, MUA National Secretary Crumlin reported on the events leading up to Patrick Stevedores’ decision to fully automate its Port Botany Terminal. 

Announcement of the decision [to automate work] took place shortly after the company entered into a new contract with the union, having not given the union any notice during the contract negotiations of the massive reduction proposed to the workforce.

 Patrick Management contended they were not obliged to and would execute the change without any formal agreement with the union.

The meeting was unanimous in condemnation of this approach to introducing this type of change.  The meeting determined that formal agreement between management and union had to be finalized before any further automation could take place in workplaces covered by the unions in attendance.

The meeting decided that the unions would work with each other, the ITF and other dock workers, seafaring and transport unions around the world to build a campaign to stop attempts of union busting through automation, with the initial focus on the finalization of the ILA contract and the Patrick Terminal at Port Botany.

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