The International Longshoremen’s Association (ILA) and the United States Maritime Alliance (USMX) have finally come to an agreement on a six-year contract for East and Gulf Coast dockworkers. This agreement is the culmination of nearly a year’s worth of difficult on-and-off negotiations between the two groups.

The ILA’s wage scale committee recommended ratification by the 14,500 members covered by the coast wide agreement as Union delegates approved the deal in principle on Tuesday, March 12, after meeting with the USMX in Florida. The New York Shipping Association (NYSA) had worked out the remaining details on an additional local contract covering its 3,250 workers and the Port of New York and New Jersey. The NYSA will present the contract this Thursday to the ILA’s New York-New Jersey delegates. NYSA President Joseph Curto confirmed that an agreement has been reached but said that he couldn’t release the details until after Thursday’s meeting.

The six year agreement concludes negotiations concerning a variety of economic and job-related issues. The ILA President, Harold Daggett, commented that the union delegates “have achieved a great contract for the rank-and-file members we represent. Our union worked hard for over a year to bring home a landmark agreement that I am sure our members will ratify.” Last month, the ILA and USMX reached a compromised to fix carriers’ royalty payments at the 2011 level of $211 million plus a fund of $14 million for administrative expenses. Any royalties in excess of $225 million will be divided by the ILA and carriers.

The new master contract allows for a $1 per hour wage increase in 2014, 2016, and 2017, and it shortens the time needed for new hires to advance to top-scale pay from nine to six years. Top pay is currently $32 an hour for straight time. One noteworthy point of the agreement is that it includes provisions to protect ILA workers displaced by the introduction of new technology and it also promotes continued jurisdiction by the ILA over chassis maintenance and repair at marine terminals and port areas. The USMX did not ask for any changes to the ILA’s coast wide medical benefits.

As the ILA celebrated this achievement, Daggett praised USMX Chairman and CEO James A. Capo and the Federal Mediators involved, and commented that the union, its employees, and the country will all benefit and “we can now move forward.” He also expressed his relief that a strike had been averted with the extensions to the contract, and the hard work paid off in the end to allow for six more years of stable labor-management relations on the East and Gulf Coasts.