The pact covers approximately 70 SIU boatmen who sail as wheelmen, deckhands and engineers. Members overwhelmingly ratified the contract during voting that took place last year from Nov. 17 to Nov. 25. Negotiations happened earlier that month, Nov. 16-17 in Kenner, Louisiana.
The company operates a dozen or so boats in the New Orleans area, normally engaged in ship-docking. Crew sizes vary between four and five people, depending on the type of tug.
Negotiating on behalf of the SIU were Port Agent Chris Westbrook, Wheelman/ Deckhand Delegate Terry King and Engineer Delegate Shane Brulte. They secured an agreement that features annual wage increases, maintains Core Plus medical benefits (the top coverage available through the Seafarers Health and Benefits Plan), and adds another paid holiday.
Westbrook stated, “The delegates did a great job, both in putting together a proposal and in the ratification. Throughout the entire fleet, we have a top-notch group of guys who have demonstrated the ability to stick together and make gains.”
The port agent added, “We have a good working relationship with the company. We don’t agree on everything but both sides handle those situations in a businesslike manner and find common ground. This particular contract helps give the company additional stability moving forward. I think that’s been the case with our recent contracts there – you’re starting to get some longer-term employees and there’s not much turnover.”
An SIU member since the 1990s, Brulte said, “The negotiations went well and I think the contract was pretty well accepted by everybody. I haven’t heard a single complaint – everything has been positive. Our economic package was pretty decent and we were able to maintain Core Plus.
“I’d like to thank Chris for all the help that he’s given us and all the work that he’s done for us,” Brulte added.
While Brulte previously had served on a bargaining committee many years ago, the experience was new for King, who joined the union following a long stint in the oil patch.
“The negotiations went faster than I thought they would, and they went well,” King noted. “It seems like everyone was pretty well pleased with what we got out of the contract. It was a good experience from my end – I enjoyed going through the process and learning how it works, and Chris did a great job.”
Editor’s note: Bisso President William H. “Bill” McDonald unexpectedly passed away Jan. 12 at his home in Mandeville, Louisiana. The union extends its sincere condolences to Mr. McDonald’s family, friends and employees.
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