ILA’s Bowers: Tiered wages should expire PDF Print E-mail
Tuesday, 17 July 2007

Updated July 17, 2007 11:16:48 AM

HOLLYWOOD, Fla. -- International Longshoremen's Association President John Bowers said that the next ILA contract should abolish tiered wages and container-royalty caps that have been a lightning rod for criticism from union dissidents.

Bowers spoke Monday at the opening of the quadrennial convention of the ILA's Maine-to-Virginia Atlantic Coast District. In his speech, he confirmed that he would not seek re-election as district president. At the union's international convention next week, he plans to yield the ILA presidency to Richard Hughes Jr., the current executive vice president, and become president emeritus.

Although the ILA president's decision to step down was widely expected, his remarks on the union's next contract negotiations were somewhat of a surprise.

Since 1996, the ILA's coastwide master contract has contained tiered wages, with lower pay for newer workers. The union also has accepted a cap on container royalties that are paid as annual bonuses to members.

The tiered wages and container-royalty caps have attracted criticism from opponents of the current ILA regime, and became an issue in the member referendum on the 2004 contract, which passed by an unexpectedly narrow margin.

Bowers said the tiered wages served a constructive purpose when they were negotiated but that they should end when the current contract expires Sept. 30, 2010. By the time the existing six-year contract expires in 2010, post-1996 hires will be a dominant majority among ILA members.

"I am not blind or deaf to the cries from some quarters in the ILA against our current tiered wages," Bowers said. "It was on my watch when they were negotiated and I believe were necessary at the time to both bring new members into the ILA and its workforce and to help our companies compete."

But he added, "It's clear to me now and endorsed by your ILA executive officers that the conclusion of the current six-year master contract in 2010 should also mark the end of tiered wages and the removal of any cap on container royalty. Their days are numbered and I strongly recommend and endorse that our next ILA contract will put an end to tiered wages. Likewise, there should be no cap on container royalty."

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