By Tom Peters

Three International Longshoremen’s Association (ILA) locals in the port of Halifax and Halifax Employers Association have reached agreement on a new two-year contract. Union members will get wage increases of 2.75 per cent in the first year and 3 per cent in the second year. The last contract for locals 269 (longshoremen), 1825 (gearmen and maintenance) and 1341 (checkers) ended December 31, 2011. The locals represent over 500 members who voted in excess of 90 per cent in favour of the new agreement.

In addition to the wage increases, there will be additional contributions put into the union’s pension and welfare programs. These programs are based on a container cargo tonnage assessement, which stands at $1.875 per tonne. Effective July 1, that will increase by two cents and by another three cents by January 1, 2013. In 2011, the Port handled 3,309,205 tonnes of container cargo, down slightly from the 3,493,392 tonnes handled in 2010.

Kevin Piper, President of Local 269, said the union was pleased with the deal.

“It is basically what we consider cost of living increases and that is what we were looking for,” he said.

Employees now have a base wage of $33.32 per hour which is the same for all three locals.

“The reason we have harmony across the board here is because the guy who is lashing on the ship gets the same rate as the guy driving the crane or operating a fork lift. They all get paid the same rate,” he said.

Richard Moore, President and CEO, Halifax Employers Association, said the Association was pleased with the pact, in which the Association was able to negotiate some staffing flexibility regarding crane operations, which Moore said should improve the turnaround time for vessels.

The two-year agreement is a change from previous contracts, which were spread over three years.

Moore said both sides felt two years was a better length of time considering the overall health of the industry at the present time.

Moore said he was pleased with the overall outcome and added that the agreement would be bringing some stability over next few years, which he anticipates could be tough for the industry in general.