SIU inland members employed by Crescent Towing have approved new two-year contracts featuring wage gains and other improvements while maintaining all benefits, including company contributions to the union-affiliated Paul Hall Center for Maritime Training and Education. Voting took place in April aboard the boats and at fleet landings, and both agreements were approved by overwhelming majorities.
The contracts are very similar. One agreement covers about 230 SIU boatmen working for Crescent in New Orleans and Savannah, Georgia, while the other covers 20 Seafarers based in Mobile, Alabama. All of the crews perform ship-docking operations aboard a total of 26 tugs. SIU New Orleans Port Agent Chris Westbrook headed up the union’s negotiating committees, assisted in Mobile by Port Agent Jimmy White. The rank-and-file delegates were as follows: in New Orleans, Captain Delegate Terry Murley, Engine Delegate David Findley, Wheelman/Deckhand Delegate Kevin McDermott, and Wheelman/ Deckhand Delegate Charles Hammesfahr. The Mobile team included members Captain Delegate Ronnie Walker, Engine Delegate Patrick McKibbon and Wheelman/Deckhand Delegate Josh Burns.
The pacts include wage gains, and they maintain Core Plus health coverage along with pension benefits. Union negotiators obtained two additional vacation days for longer-term employees who are licensed, while making no concessions.
Westbrook said the New Orleans/Savannah committee “was fantastic – one of the best I’ve had the pleasure of working with. They’ve all done it before, and they’re standup guys who spoke when needed and made good, legitimate points. There was a lot of substance to what they said, and some of the gains certainly are attributable to the expertise and experience of the rank-and- file delegates.
“With the Mobile committee, it was the same thing,” he continued. “They were terrific. Ronnie is a veteran of bargaining committees and he led the way; the other delegates were new but they also did a great job.”
Westbrook further noted that the contracts feature strong incentives for unlicensed boatmen to upgrade.
“Everything worked out great,” Walker said. “Chris and Jimmy did a good job. We got a good contract for the next couple years.”
Murley stated, “We got what we thought was fair. Both sides came out happy.”
Findley said the negotiations “were okay. There were a few little tight moments, but that’s to be expected. Chris is really good at what he does, and it’s great to have him. He was very focused.”
The New Orleans and Savannah negotiations started April 1; contract ratification was complete April 11. In Mobile, bargaining started April 17, and ratification was finished April 23. Westbrook added that Crescent’s SIU crews are proud of their safety record. Last year, for example, they logged 750,000 man hours with only one lost-time injury (a minor one).
“I think the contract packages reflect the experience and professionalism we have in this fleet,” he concluded. “They’re also doing a great job with the Subchapter M requirements that are coming online.”