After layoffs at the Conley Container Terminal Oct. 1, members of the Local 1066 of the International Longshoremen's Assn. started to reduce productivity at the terminal, reducing the number of trucks they were processing a day from 650 to between 515 and 550.
In response, Monday the Massachusetts Port Authority pared back hours at the terminal, opening an hour later and closing for the lunch hour. The reduced hours eliminated overtime paid to the protesting union members. It also infuriated port truckers, who were faced with five-hour turnaround times that enabled them to haul only one or two loads a day instead of the usual three into the metropolitan area.
Truckers were so upset that they blocked the entrance to the terminal Tuesday morning, parking their trucks in front of the gates. "A bunch of the drivers decided enough was enough," says 20-year port trucker veteran Paul Dodge. Although there is no official association, Dodge speaks for many of the drivers and has been in touch with other port driver groups online.
Massport and ILA leaders reached an agreement Tuesday afternoon which resulted in the port returning to extended hours. Dodge says the port authorities also spoke with truckers, whose blocking of the port he feels also had something to do with the decision to go back to the regular hours. However, Dodge says, the smaller number of people working after this month's layoffs is still creating slowdowns for truckers.
Although the port is still open during lunch, Dodge says, the clerks have told the truckers that with the layoffs, there are no longer enough bodies to keep all the lanes open while some of the staffers take their lunch break.
"Everything first thing in the morning goes well," Dodge says, "but at lunch you're going from four lanes to two lanes, causing a 35 to 40 truck backup, which then never seems to go away until the end of the day." Dodge said yesterday trucks were getting in and out of the port in an average of about two hours - but before all the changes happened, it was not uncommon for turnaround times to be less than an hour.
Dodge estimates there are one to two weeks' worth of containers backed up at the port from the slowdowns.
Although truckers from the Boston port did not have a huge show of support for the national port trucker rallies organized by the Teamsters earlier this month, Dodge says the Teamsters have been working with the drivers to educate them about their situation and options.
"To have any real independence, we need some power behind us," Dodge said, "and the Teamsters union could do this."