A six-year extension to the master contract for workers at East Coast and Gulf Coast ports has been approved in a move that should ease labour disruptions and pressure on global supply chains.

All the local divisions of the International Longshoremen’s Association last week voted to approve the new contract with the United States Maritime Alliance (USMX). The development is expected to bring pay increases, landmark protections against job-killing fully automated ports, and labour peace and stability through to 30 September 2024.

Specifically, Article 11 of the current master contract, which addresses new technology and automation, has been replaced with new language stating that no fully automated terminals and no fully automated equipment will be implemented during the life of the contract.

ILA president Harold J Daggett applauded the successful ratification vote. “This is a great day for the ILA and our union membership. ILA members covered under this ILA-USMX master agreement can now look to a bright future where their salaries will increase and the threat of job loss from fully automated terminals, semi-automated terminals and automated equipment is eliminated. Our national health care plan, MILA, remains strong and our members will benefit from increases in Container Royalty.”

The National Retail Federation (NRF) led more than 100 organisations in a March letter to the union and management urging both parties to resume talks after negotiations broke down earlier this year.

Retailers and importers watch port contract negotiations closely as any contract-related disputes can lead to enormous disruption to their supply chains. Prolonged contract talks led to a slowdown and congestion issues at West Coast ports during 2014 and early 2015.

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The ILA-USMX master agreement is one of a number of new port contracts to have now been signed. In August last year, on the West Coast, the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU), extended their contract by three years through to July 2022.