A tentative settlement of the 44-day dock strike against containerships at ports from Maine to Texas was announced yesterday in New York City after three days of intensive talks.
The agreement, which must be ratified by locals of the International Longshoremen's Association, contains wage-benefit increases of more than 30 per cent over the next three years for 50,000 dockworkers.
ILA President Thomas W. (Teddy) Gleason said the terms would be recommended to the union's membership at a series of meetings today and Tuesday in Morehead City, N.C.; Tampa, Fla.; Mobile, Ala., and New Orleans.
The final hurdle, a dispute over job security, was cleared yesterday, but not all the details were released immediately. The ILA, whose ranks have strunk in the growing automation of the waterfront, had been demanding new income and benefit guarantees to replace ones invalidated by the government.
The proposed settlement could lead to a resumption of container shipping operations in some ports by the weekend. Rase pay, now $8 an hour, would rise by $2.40 an hour in 80-cent yearly steps to a total of $10.40 an hour. The basic work week would remain 40 hours.
In New York, where longshoremen have had a contract with a guaranteed annual wage provision of a full year's work, it could mean that as of Oct. 1, 1979, every dockworker would receive at least $21,632 annually whether he works or not. Gleason told reporters in New York that he would like to have a vote this Friday "because it's nice to put the men back to work on a Saturday and Sunday" when they get time-and-half wages.
The settlement of the strike, which began Oct. 1, was announced jointly by officials of the ILA and spokesmen for the New York Shipping Association and the Council of North Atlantic Shipping Associations (CONASA).
New York Shipping Association President James J. Dickman estimated that the strike had cost the economy "many, many hundreds of millions of dollars." The selective strike against container operations, involving cargoes prepacked in vansized steel crates and unloaded by huge cranes, had thrown pre-Christmas delivery schedules of importers and exporters into chaos.
Gleason said the pact would not increase shiiping costs because "productivity has gone up 1,500 per cent" through automation.
The master contract tentatively approved yesterday is one part of a two-tiered settlement. Each port's work force must approve the master agreement and an additional agreement on local issues.
Both master and local agreements must be submitted, together and in writing, to the rank and file, port by port.
Yesterday's proposed agreement covers only ILA members in Northeastern ports from Maine to virginia, some 35,000 dock workers. Traditionally, however, that contract has established the pattern for South Atlantic and Gulf ports.
Although guarteed income and job security are local issues under the two-tier system, the master agreement has clauses making the shipping companies responsible for setting aside enough money in funds to pay guaranteed incomes, plus welfare and pension payments.
In addition to the general wage increase, the master agreement calls for increases in employer contributions to pension in three steps, moving from the current $1.71 per man hour to $2.25 in the third year. For welfare payments, the employer contribution would rise from $1.13 an hour to $1.50 in the third year.
SHippers said the pileup of goods at the 30 affected ports involved $4 billion worth of cargo. They said this has created a shortage of some imported items that would boost the cost of Christmas shopping.
The ILA strike also resulted in layoffs at other businesses and trucking companies. In Puerto Rico, importers had to arrange air shipments of foodstuffs. Grocery prices on the island soared.
The union and the shippers had been negotiating over a master contract since April 1. Gleason said the tentative agreement included landmark job-security provisions. He refused to disclose them in detail but said:
"As far as the job-security plan is concerned, there's nothing like it. I think it will spread to other industries."
Spokesmen for the shippers said they were pleased with the settlement.