Bailout the banksters, pay bonuses to the corrupt CEO's & his merry band of looters, pump up the stock market, & then declare victory. 86 dock workers to be laid off as Port Authority struggles with falling shipments, revenue
MOBILE, Ala. -- The Alabama State Port Authority is cutting 86 hourly employees, one of several moves in the face of falling shipments and revenue, Director Jimmy Lyons said today.
In addition, salaried workers will be charged $180 a month for dependents' health insurance, 15 contract employees are being let go and other authority contracts, such as those for engineers, attorney and lobbyist, will see 10-percent fee cuts.
Lyons said he expects savings of at least $5 million annually. Most of the docks' hourly employees make between $17.87 and $20.07 per hour, or $37,200 to $41,700 annually.
The state docks has reported a $10 million net loss
through the first nine months of the current fiscal year. Coal shipments, which account for half of the docks' business, have been in free fall since the global economy soured.
With double-digit declines
in cargo volumes on average across the country, the local situation is not unique.
"There are a lot of other ports that have seen significant drop-offs in cargo activity and revenue and have taken dramatic steps, said Paul Bingham, managing director of world trade and transportation markets for Boston-based research firm IHS Global Insight. Some, such as the port of Oakland, had significant layoffs as early as six months ago, he said.
Although clearly more than 1,000 direct port jobs have been lost nationwide over the past year, the number is likely much higher
when factoring port-related jobs such as trucking and stevedoring, he said.
Alabama's state docks had earlier implemented a 32-hour work week for 350 employees, frozen salaries and left open positions unfilled, but those measures proved inadequate, Lyons said.
"First and foremost, our thoughts are with the employees who had to be laid off, as well as their families," Lyons said.
He said 60 percent of the job loss can be traced to a steep drop-off in coal shipments handled at the Bulk Materials Handling Plant, where employment has dwindled from about 60 people in December to about 24 now. After this week, it will be five.
Discussions between the International Longshoremen's Association Local 1984 and the docks' human resources department began early this morning and are likely to end Wednesday, Lyons said, as officials determine who will lose jobs. Under the union contract, laid off employees with seniority can "bump" less-experienced workers who weren't going to lose their jobs.
Bill Bradley, president of ILA Local 1984, said the McDuffie Coal Terminal, where most of the bulk plant workers had been transferred, will be hardest hit among operations. Port operatives, a classification of workers who perform multiple tasks, will be most affected, but cuts will also touch millwrights, crane operators and laborers, Bradley said.
Bradley said workers have the right to be called back to their jobs for two years.
While he acknowledged that salaried employees have gone two years without a raise and are losing benefits, Bradley said hourly workers feel they are bearing the brunt of the burden.
Employees covered under the union contract got a 3 percent raise as part of a new labor deal signed in the spring, and are due another 3 percent raise in January. Bradley said union leaders didn't consider reopening negotiations because they didn't think concessions could save enough after docks leaders told labor officers that the 32-hour work week wasn't sufficient.
Lyons said that although none of the 190 salaried employees are losing their jobs, sacrifices are being made across the board. The hourly employees who remain will immediately go back to a 40-hour work week, he said.
"The organization is broader than the people here," he said. "The people are very, very important but our stakeholders are all over the state and we've got to continue to be a viable organization."
The cuts will leave the docks with about 400 hourly workers, Lyons said.
When a turnaround will occur is unclear, but Lyons said he expects it to start sometime in 2010.
The docks had its last significant layoff in 1999, when about 100 workers were let go. http://blog.al.com/live/2009/07/86_dock ... id_of.html