Matson reaches pact with union workers
Matson contract proposal pleases all parties
STORY SUMMARY »
Matson Navigation Co. has agreed to pay parity and wage increases for union workers that man their container ships, whether as deckhands, merchant firemen or cooks.
The new five-year contract was agreed upon late Monday night with the Sailors' Union of the Pacific; Seafarers International Union-Marine Cooks; and the Marine Firemen, Oilers, Watertenders and Wipers Association.
It is still subject to ratification by the union members.
Both Matson and the unions seem pleased with the contract, which will avert a strike authorized by the Sailors Union last month.
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Matson Navigation Co. has reached a new, five-year agreement with three unions that cover unlicensed container ship workers -- the Sailors' Union of the Pacific; Seafarers International Union-Marine Cooks; and Marine Firemen, Oilers, Watertenders and Wipers Association.
The agreement is subject to ratification by union members.
"We're pleased that we've reached an agreement," Matson spokesman Jeff Hull said. "There'll be no disruption to our service."
The agreement was reached late Monday night -- when union contracts expired -- after weeks of negotiations that had continued through the weekend.
A strike was possible, given that the Sailors' Union of the Pacific, which said it represents about 2,000 Matson workers, including 200 in Hawaii, had voted in June to authorize a strike if a new contract wasn't reached.
The union is made up of sailors that steer the vessel, tie down cargo and ensure a ship is in proper operational order. The other two unions represent ship stewards and marine cooks, and merchant firemen and engine workers.
Hull estimated the number of positions numbered about 200 within the Matson fleet at a given time, given the rotation of workers in between trips. He did not have an estimate of total workers in Hawaii, which might be closer to 500.
"We're very satisfied with the contract," said Charles Khim, attorney for the Sailors' Union of the Pacific, naming wage parity as a major victory. "In exchange for labor peace for five years, we have gotten Matson to agree to give full parity among employees."
Previously, according to Khim, Matson had instituted a two-tier wage system among its workers due to hard economic times.
Workers on newer vessels took a pay cut, even though they might have been more senior than those working on older vessels.
"Matson had promised to eliminate that once times got better," said Khim. "Times got better for this contract. Matson's making record profits now."
Besides restoring pay, Matson agreed to wage, pension and fringe-benefit increases while maintaining the same medical coverage benefits.
Khim declined to disclose more specific details, including precise percentage increases, until ratification among union members by a target date of July 21. He called the increases "modest, but reasonable."
He was confident the contract would be ratified by the members.
Khim also represented the Inlandboatmen's Union of the Pacific, which last week ratified a contract increasing wages and fringes by 53.8 percent over three years. But, he said, this was after a four-year wage freeze.
The union represents about 100 workers at Young Bros. Ltd. and Hawaiian Tug & Barge.
Separate negotiations also continued yesterday between the Pacific Maritime Association and the International Longshore and Warehouse Union, which represents more than 26,000 West Coast dockworkers.
Their six-year contract expired yesterday at 5 p.m. on the West Coast.
The PMA, whose 71 member companies include cargo carriers, terminal operators and stevedores on the West Coast, including Matson, said talks would continue.
"We anticipate negotiations will continue after the expiration of the contract," said Brian Coddington, spokesman for PMA. "We are still working hard to get a fair and reasonable contract. There's no anticipation of any disruption of port activities on the West Coast. Both sides are committed to keeping the ports open."
PMA said keeping the ports open, productive and secure were critical to the U.S. economy, given that West Coast ports generate more than an estimated $1.3 trillion in domestic business impacts.
Back in 2002, a bitter labor dispute led to a 10-day lockout and shutdown of the ports, resulting in a temporary halt of shipments to Hawaii.
The ILWU was not planning to call for a strike authorization vote if no deal was reached yesterday, said a union spokesman.
The average pay for a full-time longshoreman last year was $125,461 annually, according to PMA.
ILWU members work at 29 West Coast ports in California, Oregon and Washington.