By Tom Peters

Halifax Employers Association (HEA) and the Council of International Longshoremen’s Association locals have reached a tentative agreement on a new four-year collective agreement. The previous two-year deal expired Dec. 31, 2013.

HEA represents steamship companies and agents employing labour, stevedores and container terminal operators handling vessels in the port of Halifax. The ILA council represents the Halifax Longshoremen’s Association, Local 269, the largest of the three locals and whose members load and unload vessels; the Halifax Freight & Steamship Checkers Union, Local 1341 who check cargo; and the Halifax Gear Repair and Maintenance Men, Local 1825.

The new agreement, reached with the aid of a conciliator, will expire Dec. 31, 2017 and must be ratified by both sides. Details will not be released until ratification is complete within the next two to three weeks. “In keeping with our long tradition of labour stability, the parties worked hard to come to an agreement that would enhance the competitive position of the Port of Halifax by providing increased flexibility for its customers, while addressing the needs of employees,” HEA President Richard Moore said.

Both the HEA and the Council of ILA bargaining committees are unanimously recommending to their respective parties that the tentative agreement be ratified. In the last contract, union members negotiated wage increases of 2.75 per cent in the first year and 3 per cent in the second year. The base salary at the end of the last contract was $34.32 an hour. In its last contract union members also negotiated additional contributions to their pension and welfare programs. These programs are based on container cargo tonnage assessments. At the end of the last contract, the contribution stood at $1.905 per tonne. In 2013, the port handled 3,757,018 tonnes of containerized cargo.

Moore said the two sides opted for the longer term agreement to follow industry trends. “The industry as whole has been going to longer agreements and I think what the lines are looking for is not just labour stability” but stability in pricing and things of that nature, he said. Halifax Port Authority President and CEO Karen Oldfield said, “There has been a long history of positive labour relations at Port of Halifax and this latest contract agreement is a reflection of the dedicated, hard-working men and women we have working in the shipping community.”