SIU members employed by Penn Maritime recently ratified a three-year contract that features significant gains.
The new agreement, approved in mid-April and covering approximately 250 Seafarers, calls for annual wage increases; boosts contributions to the Seafarers Money Purchase Pension Plan (SMPPP); raises the food allowance; and provides medical coverage for all members through the Seafarers Health and Benefits Plan (SHBP).
The latter point is noteworthy, according to members and union officials. Penn Maritime was acquired by Kirby Corporation in 2012. Since then, any new employees received medical coverage through a company plan. Typically, those mariners paid several thousand dollars apiece each year just for the premiums (whereas Penn Maritime members covered via the SHBP do not have to pay premiums).
“Getting everybody back on the SHBP medical coverage was huge,” said Chief Mate John Harvard, who served on the union negotiating committee. “For guys that have families, it’s a really big help. It shows that the company has some commitment to the members; hopefully, we can keep building trust and mutual respect.”
The SIU bargaining team included Vice President Gulf Coast Dean Corgey, Vice President Atlantic Coast Joseph Soresi, Assistant Vice President Mike Russo, Harvard, Lead Tankerman Michael Lyons and Chief Engineer Jeff Rydza. Negotiations took place in Houston.
“This is a great example of a union and a company working together to hammer out a good agreement,” Russo said. “It’s something we can all be proud of. I think everybody walked away feeling good about this.”
Harvard said the contract “exceeded my expectations. I think it was a good contract and we’re headed in the right direction. You don’t always walk away with everything you want, but we didn’t lose anything – just gained. Kudos to Dean, Joe and Mike for their work on the contract.” Soresi said, “The bargaining went well and we secured a good agreement. It certainly seems as if most the members are happy with the results.”
Penn Maritime operates up to 15 tugboats and barges in the Gulf region, primarily moving asphalt along inland and coastal waterways.