Dock Workers Deal Heavy on Pension Benefits

November 26, 2002 ( - The tentative deal that allowed West Coast dock workers to go back to work over the weekend reportedly includes only a $0.50/hour annual wage hike for six years, but a 60% pension benefit increase, Dow Jones reported.

The six-year deal reportedly involves a nearly 11% overall salary increase from an average hourly wage of $27.50 and the significant pension increase, which will allow a 30-year longshoreman to retire with an annual $54,000 in pension payments compared to the current benefit amount of $34,200, Dow Jones said.

The agreement between the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) and the Pacific Maritime Association, which represents the shipping companies,   unlocked a logjam that effectively shuttered West Coast ports for 10 days in September and October. (See  Employers, Dockworkers Come to Terms ).

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A key part of the deal struck was an acceptance by the longshoremens’ union of some of the technological innovations that have been absent from West Coast ports but which are responsible for higher productivity rates and lower costs in European and Asian ports, according to Dow Jones. The shipping company officials pressed for computerized cargo tracking systems while the union argued for higher salaries and pension benefits.

The PMA also promised that existing union workers in some 400 jobs to be phased out would be kept on and that the union would gain jurisdiction over some jobs that are currently outside its jurisdiction.

Union President Jim Spinosa said the ILWU leadership fully supported the agreement and that a caucus of about 100 rank-and-file members will meet December 9 to “validate and ratify” the pact. They will then visit hiring halls in 29 major Pacific ports to urge dockworkers to approve the contract offer.  The agreement must be ratified by a majority of the ILWU members.