Liberty Maritime responds to MEBA’s ‘Informational Picket’ against the U.S. flag operator.
Coinciding with Liberty Maritime’s reflagging ceremony in the Golden Triangle; The Marine Engineers’ Beneficial Association (MEBA) this week staged what they characterized as an ‘informational picket’ today against Liberty Maritime Corp., to include Liberty Global Logistics (Liberty). In a prepared statement issued on August 23, MEBA insists, “The MEBA has jurisdiction over the Licensed Deck and Engineering Officers on board any vessel manned by Liberty Maritime and their affiliates.” The U.S.-based maritime union went on to say, “Liberty has ignored the MEBA contract and chosen to crew the Liberty Peace, a new ship to be operated under U.S.-flag, with officers not affiliated with MEBA.”
Not so, says Bob Wellner, President of Liberty Global Logistics LLC (LGL), who weighed in this morning on the matter. In his own prepared comments, Wellner told Marinelink, “The MEBA agreement with Liberty Maritime only covers dry cargo vessels which are enrolled in the Maritime Security Program. The Liberty Peace will not be enrolled in MSP and will therefore not be covered by the existing agreement.”
MEBA’s position, according to a press release issued by MEBA's Secretary Treasurer Bill Van Loo, is that the Liberty Peace is covered under the parties’ existing Collective Bargaining Agreement, as has been the case with every other U.S.-flag vessel Liberty has owned/operated for the last 29 years and most recently earlier this year with the recently reflagged Liberty Passion. Nevertheless, Liberty’s Wellner replied that the M/V Liberty Passion entered the U.S.-flag fleet as an MSP-enrolled vessel and so that vessel’s situation is not comparable to the Liberty Peace.
Beyond the differences in the two vessel’s business sectors, Wellner also pointed to efforts to reach out to the MEBA union leadership, overtures which he says were rejected. “Despite the absence of MEBA jurisdiction, an offer was made to the MEBA for an arrangement so that the MEBA members would be employed on the vessel while any issues were resolved. The MEBA leadership rejected the offer and refused to negotiate. This rejection and refusal caused the loss of MEBA jobs.” Moreover, continued Wellner, “The Liberty Peace, like every other U.S.-flag international trading PCTC, will be fully crewed by merchant mariners who are members of labor unions.”
For his part, MEBA’s Van Loo was careful to portray the union’s actions in a positive light, saying, “The MEBA is NOT on strike against and DOES NOT have a labor dispute with any other employer. We are NOT seeking to interfere with the business operations of any entity or induce employees of other employers to cease work or refuse to make deliveries.” The prepared statement went on to say, “MEBA would like to further clarify that that the Union has no issues with the unlicensed personnel or any other vessel owner/operator at the dock, and our issue is confined exclusively to Liberty Maritime and its affiliate Liberty Global Logistics, LLC.”
The reflagging of the New PCTC M/V Liberty Peace brings the newest pure car/truck carrier (PCTC) to U.S.-flag, one which will be manned by American Maritime Officers (AMO) union, who will provide the officers for the Liberty Peace. Wellner was quick to add, “The MEBA will continue to provide the officers for the other three Liberty Global Logistics PCTCs – all MSP-enrolled vessels. The Seafarers International Union will continue to provide the unlicensed members of the crew.”
MEBA bills itself as the nation's oldest maritime labor union, established in 1875. The union’s membership sails on U.S.-flag vessels that include tankers, Great Lakes vessels
, cruise and container ships, in government-contracted ships of the U.S. Navy’s Military Sealift Command and the Maritime Administration’s Ready Reserve Force, on tugs and ferry fleets around the country, LNG vessels and in various capacities in the shoreside industries. With the addition of the Liberty Peace, Liberty Maritime now operates seven U.S. flag vessels. According to Wellner, MEBA has union members on board three of those vessels.