NOAA Contract Overwhelmingly Approved

July 2011

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Following negotiations and related meetings spanning nearly two years, members of the SIU Government Services Division overwhelmingly have approved a new five-year contract covering the 19 vessels in the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) fleet.


“It has been a long and time-consuming effort and we are extremely grateful for the patience of the membership and the dedication of the negotiation committee members as we worked through the bargaining process,” stated SIU Vice President Government Services Kermett Mangram (pictured above with members of the negotiating committee.)


He added that the old contract had not been modified for many years. Negotiations for an updated agreement started in June 2009.


“We are confident this new agreement will provide both labor and management with clear guidance and understanding of existing work rules and detail new terms and conditions between the parties,” Mangram said.


Among those playing key roles for the union during negotiations and throughout the ratification process were membersTom Sherman, Margret Collins, Herbert Hazwell, Tonya Watson and Dave Fare and officials Mangram, Representative Kate Hunt and SIU Tacoma Port Agent Joe Vincenzo. Hunt on the East Coast and Vincenzo on the West Coast visited each of the 16 active NOAA ships throughout March; they explained key elements of the new pact and oversaw the voting procedure. The pact officially was executed by the union and NOAA on May 5. (Two other NOAA ships have been acquired by the agency but haven’t started sailing, while another is laid up.)


 Vincenzo pointed out that during the ratification process, 20 additional mariners joined the union – a move he described as “a testament both to their understanding of the value of unionism and the collective bargaining process within the public sector and to their desire to form and do the work of ships’ committees.”


He and Hunt both noted that the union relied heavily on private-sector maritime standards contained in the SIU’s Standard Freightship Agreement in drafting the provisions of the new NOAA contract. In addition, the union incorporated many of the ideas and proposals submitted by the crews sailing aboard NOAA vessels.


“What the members will discover is not a radically new document, but instead an agreement which provides clearer language and addresses the true nature of the work performed by the NOAA membership,” said Hunt. (She added that because these crews are federal employees, wages and benefits weren’t covered in the negotiations. The mariners enjoy the same wages and benefits as other government workers.)


Contract highlights include strengthened standards and jurisdiction language that protects mariners’ positions on the NOAA vessels; clarification on temporary promotions; enhanced training opportunities, including the utilization of the Seafarers-affiliated Paul Hall Center for Maritime Training and Education; and a simplified grievance and arbitration process.


The new agreement also preserves all areas of work recognized in the standard contract as penalty work; adds new language, based on suggestions from members, providing payment when performing stand-by diving duties; boosts safety standards; eliminates outdated work-clothing language and provides reimbursement for safety shoes; and includes a new “special watch” schedule recognizing the true operating nature of many NOAA vessels, especially the fishery ships. Another notable change concerns deck department rules for watchstanders.


The union has agreed that an AB assigned to the bridge may be sent below to perform mission-related duties as long as they are paid at the deck utility (DU) rate. If the AB is only receiving the AB(W) rate and is sent below to work, they would continue to receive penalty pay.


In accordance with current Coast Guard regulations, the union also agreed that an OS can be assigned as helmsman or lookout, as long as they are fully trained and certified.


“We appreciate the efforts of all who participated in this very important project, including the management members of the NOAA negotiating team,” Hunt stated. “They demonstrated great resolve and patience throughout our talks and we appreciate the joint efforts in took to achieve this agreement.”



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