Bisso Boatmen Approve New 3-Year Contract

January 2011

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SIU members at E.N. Bisso in New Orleans are ringing in the New Year with a brand new contract. The three-year agreement, overwhelmingly supported by Seafarers, includes some major gains for the approximately 60 engineers, deckhands, and wheelmen employed by the company.


Ratified late last year, the contract features second- and third-year pay increases as well as a first-year bonus for SIU boatmen, a daily pay increase for wheelmen, and the addition of grandparents to the bereavement clause. Another major component of the contract is the continuation of Seafarers Health and Benefits Plan Core Plus medical benefits (the top level available through the SHBP) without any concessions.


The union’s bargaining team, led by Engineer Delegate Robert Jordan, Deckhand/Wheelman Delegate Brandon Chauvin and Port Agent Chris Westbrook, was satisfied with the negotiations and the resulting contract.


“I think the negotiations went very well,” said Jordan. “Between the company, the union, and the employees all being able to sit down and negotiate without hostility shows we’ve really come a long way.”


Westbrook agreed, pointing out the significance of a fair contract in tough economic times.


“I’m pleased with the work the delegates did under the conditions they were in,” Westbrook said. “We were able to negotiate a fair package that everyone can live with. I also want to acknowledge the valuable support and communication we received from many of the longtime members at Bisso. They really stepped up and helped everyone understand the economic realities of these times and in particular the importance of maintaining their level of medical benefits.”


Westbrook commended SIU Vice President Gulf Coast Dean Corgey for his valuable input throughout the process.


The union negotiating team also noted that stable relations with management were reflected at the bargaining table.


“I’ve got to give the company credit,” Jordan said. “They did a great job listening to what we had to say.”


The mutually respectful relationship with the company had an impact on Chauvin, as well.


“I loved the experience,” said Chauvin. “A lot of people told me it was going to be tough and I figured it would be intimidating, but it really wasn’t. I went in with a clear mind and spoke how I needed to.”


Both Chauvin and Jordan said maintaining the Core Plus benefits is a highlight of the new contract. Chauvin added that the value of such benefits particularly isn’t lost on him.


“Last year I had cancer, which is thousands of dollars (for treatment) easily,” said Chauvin. But, because of the benefits stipulated in his SIU contract, “it didn’t have to come out of my pocket.”


He added that maintaining medical benefits has the potential to help all the workers at E.N. Bisso.


“From a cold to a broken leg, health care has been there to benefit them and their families and will continue to be,” said Chauvin. “This is a positive contract and a positive experience. It means a better future.”

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