NY-NJ port hires 650 as volume grows

Date: Monday, February 18th, 2019
Source: JOC

The Port of New York and New Jersey will hire more than 650 longshoremen and checkers over the next 18 months to replace retiring workers and handle container volume growth - up 6 percent in 2018.

The new hires, resulting from an agreement between the New York Shipping Association (NYSA), and the Waterfront Commission of New York Harbor, will increase the registry of longshoremen by about 8 percent and is the largest group of new hires since 2014, said John Nardi, NYSA’s president. The Waterfront Commission, whose board approved the deal Thursday, oversees hiring at the port, and must sign off on all additions to the longshoremen’s registry.

About 300 of the new hires will take new positions, while the remainder are replacements of retiring employees. The port register at present contains about 3,500 longshoremen, and the hiring will add 538 longshoremen and 120 checkers.

“As these (new) people are trained, workers will move into training programs and will be simultaneously back filled with additional workers,” Nardi said. “The entire process will probably take 18 months.”

The agreement comes as volume tests port resources. Volumes increased by 20 percent in December, compared to the same month in 2017, according to PIERS, a sister product of JOC.com within IHS Markit. Imports through New York-New Jersey in all of 2018 grew by 8 percent in 2018, and exports grew by 6.5 percent in the first three quarters of 2018, according to PIERS.

Much of the increase is due to shippers sending more cargo than usual to beat a Dec. 31 deadline after which tariffs on Chinese goods would rise from 10 to 25 percent. The deadline was later changed to Mar. 1. The worst hit terminal, APM Terminals, which has suffered extensive congestion and increased dwell times for rail cargo, has cited a shortage of labor over the holiday period as one of the reasons. The terminal says the fluidity problems at the terminal are improving after it adopted a series of measures to help cargo move faster.

Port hiring is overseen by the commission in its role as a port watchdog, which includes the responsibility to ensure that the number of registered longshoremen is in balance with the demand for workers. The commission and NYSA have clashed numerous times on different issues, including in court, and in 2016 a federal appeals court affirmed a lower court’s dismissal of an association lawsuit accusing the commission of overstepping its authority and interfering with collective bargaining agreements through the agency’s oversight of hiring policies.

Commission officials say organized crime remains a presence on the docks, and that the only permanent remedy is to break up entrenched hiring practices, reduce the traditional role of the International Longshoremen’s Association (ILA) in job referrals, and broaden the workforce to include more minorities and women.

NYSA and ILA officials argue the port-wide longshore workforce already is diverse, and that the commission should stick to law enforcement and allow the industry to manage hiring under its negotiated contracts.

The agreement approved this week set out a new formula for where the new hires should be recruited from. Half of the new hires will come from a pool compiled by the ILA and 10 percent will come from a pool created by the NYSA.

Twenty percent of the candidates will be veterans and 20 percent will come from area employment offices run by the New York and New Jersey Departments of Labor (DOL). That’s the first time that there has been a formal category for employment center candidates, although they have always been part of the recruitment effort, Nardi said.

Twenty percent of the recruits will be veterans. That’s down from 51 percent in the past, because the veterans’ unemployment rate has fallen from 13.5 percent in 2013, when the higher percentage was introduced, to 4 percent today, Nardi said. The veterans hiring program was recognized in 2016 by the American Legion, which presented the NYSA with the Legion’s Employer of the Year Award in the large-employer category.

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