Crescent Crews Ratify Contracts


June 2013


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The economic times remain tough, but that didn’t stop the union from securing well-received, favorable contracts covering boatmen employed by Crescent Towing.


The two new agreements – overwhelmingly approved in April by rank-and-file Seafarers – cover approximately 200 members working for Crescent in New Orleans, Savannah, Ga., and Mobile, Ala. One pact applies to New Orleans and Savannah while the other covers Mobile. The three-year agreements are nearly identical and both took effect May 1.


“I think we did as good as we could, considering the economic climate,” stated Captain Terry Murley, a member of the New Orleans/Savannah bargaining committee. “The contract gives us room for movement in the future. That’s how I looked at it.”


Among other highlights, the contracts call for annual wage increases, maintain health benefits at the top level available through the Seafarers Health and Benefits Plan, maintain pension benefits, and improve vacation benefits. Additionally, the contracts increase the lodging allowance and address seniority issues while improving some incentive provisions.


“Things went smoothly and we came out really good with the contract,” said Deckhand/Wheelman Charlie Hammesfahr, another member of the New Orleans/ Savannah committee. “We did good with the wages and benefits and the vacation; those were the biggest things.”


Negotiations and voting took place from early to mid-April, with Seafarers ratifying the pacts aboard Crescent tugs. Approximately 97 percent of the votes were in favor of the new contracts.


SIU New Orleans Port Agent Chris Westbrook credited the two committees as well as company personnel for tough but fair bargaining that resulted in reasonable, productive agreements.


“We had fantastic committees – very knowledgeable people,” Westbrook said. “They did a tremendous job of making sure gains were made appropriately. We also fought back proposed cuts in wages and benefits. To the company’s credit, they heard what the committees had to say. It’s a team effort out there and we are all pushing for a skilled and safe workforce…. I think the vote count illustrates that everybody was on board and everybody was pleased with the outcome.”


Joining Westbrook, Murley and Hammesfahr on the New Orleans/Savannah committee were Engineer Delegate David Findley, Deckhand/Wheelman Delegate Mike Lobue and SIU Mobile Port Agent Jimmy White.


The Mobile bargaining group consisted of Captain Mike Yarbrough, Engineer Steve Woods, Wheelman Roy Saranthus Jr., Westbrook and White.


“I think it went well,” White observed. “For the most part, the members were satisfied.”


“I’m very happy with the contract and I think negotiations went very smooth,” said Yarbrough. “We’re very fortunate to have good insurance and a good pension plan…. This was my fourth contract negotiation and I take my hat off to Jimmy White and Chris Westbrook. They did an exceptional job.”


Crescent operates harbor-assist tugs – 17 in New Orleans, five in Savannah, and three in Mobile.


Meanwhile, both Murley and Hammesfahr said that as first-time bargaining committee members, the experience proved different than expected.


“It lets you see how the inner workings go – things you hear rumors about but never see,” Murley said. “It was a positive experience, seeing how things actually happen.”


Hammesfahr added, “It was a good process. It’s different interacting with the company like that as opposed to on a daily basis at work.”



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