By overwhelming majorities, SIU members employed by Crescent Towing recently approved new, three-year contracts calling for wage increases while maintaining benefits and securing other gains.
One of the contracts covers SIU boatmen based in New Orleans and Savannah, Georgia, while the other applies to Seafarers located in Mobile, Alabama. The agreements are nearly identical, and altogether they cover approximately 250 employees who sail aboard Crescent’s 26 tugboats.
“These contracts are good for everybody involved, both from the union and from the company,” said SIU New Orleans Port Agent Chris Westbrook, who served on the negotiating committees. “We made a number of important gains and the company definitely got increased stability. It’s a win-win situation.”
Joining Westbrook in the Mobile bargaining group were Mobile Port Agent Jimmy White and Seafarers Davin Tucker, Ronnie Walker and Michael Hurst.
The SIU’s negotiating committee for New Orleans/Savannah included White, Westbrook and union members David Findley, Kevin McDermott, Charles Hammesfahr and Terry Murley.
“We got a good contract,” stated Murley. “We worked at it and we did what we were supposed to do to take care of the guys on the boats. We maintained our (benefit) contributions and got a little bit of a raise on top of it. That’s pretty much what I was shooting for. I think we did good and the company did good, too. They have good people working for them.”
McDermott noted that although he has worked for Crescent for 22 years, this was his first time serving on a negotiating committee.
“It was a tough experience and there were a lot of headaches and stress for a couple of days, but it worked out good for everybody,” McDermott said. “Everyone got raises across the board, and all our benefits are there. It came out good for all the guys.”
The contracts maintain medical benefits the highest level (Core Plus) while providing annual wage increases. They also continue with full contributions to the Seafarers Pension Plan while improving seniority protections.
Crescent also boosted its contributions to the SIU-affiliated Paul Hall Center for Maritime Training and Education, located in Piney Point, Maryland. Westbrook applauded that change and credited the company for “clearly understanding that Piney Point is a valuable tool – one they’ll need more and more in the future.”
He added, “These were among the best negotiating committees I’ve ever served with. They brought a wealth of knowledge and were fantastic to work with.”
Negotiations for New Orleans/Savannah took place in Kenner, Louisiana, April 6-9. Voting began April 9 and concluded on April 15. The Mobile negotiations took place April 14; voting began that same day and ended on April 18.
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