Longshoremen have returned to work at the Port of Charleston a day after a work stoppage due to a feud between dockworkers and the operator that unloads cargo vessels there. The Charleston Post & Courier reports that a federal judge signed an order Thursday night requiring that the longshoremen return to work
The order came more than nine hours after members of the International Longshoremen’s Association stopped working as part of a dispute with a group that oversees the handling of cargo at the port.
The issue was over additional responsibilities that were given to clerks who help track truck cargo at the Wando Welch and North Charleston terminals, according to International Longshoremen’s Association Local 1422 President Ken Riley. He said the clerks were fired when they refused to do the additional work.
A third-party group known as a “stevedores” oversee the unionized clerks and the non-union “deck-and-dock” employees. Riley said the stevedores are seeking to shift responsibilities for both jobs to the clerks. He said the ILA learned about the move on Wednesday.
“Now they want one guy to do what two guys were doing all along,” Riley told South Carolina Radio Network.
The South Carolina Ports Authority— which is not directly involved in the dispute— said the ILA members walked off the job around 9:40 Thursday morning. The Ports Authority says three ships were unloading at the two terminals when the work stoppage occurred. A spokeswoman said trucks are still delivering to and from the terminal.
Early Thursday evening, U.S. District Judge David C. Norton signed a temporary restraining order that told ILA members to return to work at the terminals. The complaint was filed by the S.C. Stevedore Association and claimed the ILA workers actions are “causing irreparable damage.” The longshoremen returned to work soon after the judge signed the order.
Riley, who was out of town Thursday, insisted no ILA members walked off the job, but instead that the clerks were fired and no one was able to direct the remaining longshoremen.
“We are not going to sit there and watch someone else do the work of the clerks that we normally work with, our sisters and brothers in the union,” Riley said.
The ILA has been involved in negotiations with the U.S. Maritime Alliance since a previous local labor contract expired last September. The additional clerk duties had not been part of the negotiations. Riley said he suspected the stevedores were trying to pre-empt the “deck-and-dock” workers from unionizing, which recently occurred at the port in Savannah.