Longshoremen to be laid off ahead of State Pier project in New London

New London — The longshoremen who handle cargo at State Pier will be laid off at the end of March right before the reconstruction of the pier is expected to start, Jim Dillman, the president of Gateway, which manages pier operations, confirmed this week.

No ships will be coming in to New London’s deepwater port during the $93 million redevelopment project to ready the pier for use by the offshore wind industry. Some of the details of the project were unveiled at a public hearing in September but it is still being negotiated by Gateway, the Connecticut Port Authority and Ørsted-Eversource, which will supply 300 megawatts of offshore wind power to Connecticut from their Revolution Wind Farm in federal waters south of Martha’s Vineyard.

That means no work for the 45 longshoremen, the majority of them part-time employees, at State Pier.

Dillman said Gateway is in discussions with the local carpenters union to provide employment to the longshoremen during the two years the pier is expected to be under construction, “so there is no interruption of income during that period of time.”

Asked whether the longshoremen in New London could work out of New Haven’s port, which Gateway also manages, Dillman said there’s already “a full complement” of workers there.

Peter Olsen, the longtime president of the International Longshoremen’s Association 1411, said he’s also talked with the carpenter’s union about using longshoremen during construction. He said he worked with ILA at the national level to get an agreement in place to allow the New London labor force to work in Bridgeport, where a redevelopment to support offshore wind industry also is being proposed.

The status of the longshoremen in New London came up during a wide ranging, seven-plus hour hearing on the port authority held last week by the General Assembly’s Transportation Committee with both State Sen. Cathy Osten, D-Sprague, and State Rep. Christine Conley, D-Groton, expressing concern over reports that the pier workers will be laid off.

Olsen said the longshoremen have taken “a financial hit” since the beginning of the year as Logistec, which operated at State Pier for about two decades, began winding down its operations and Gateway took over. The longshoremen are paid hourly. They get $25.75 per hour for unloading cargo when a ship is in port and $23 for day-to-day work such as loading cargo onto trucks, Olsen said.

Since Gateway took over May 1, six vessels have come into New London’s port. Two vessels, one carrying salt, the other carrying copper, are scheduled to come into the port next week. Gateway has said with the pending construction project, it has not aggressively marketed the port, given the expectation that it will be closed to ship traffic for two years.

Gateway and the longshoremen have a temporary labor agreement in place that lasts until the end of the year, and there are discussions about keeping that in place until the end of March, Olsen said.

“We’re working under the premise that construction will start April 1,” Dillman said.

Once construction is complete, and the port is “reactivated,” Gateway has “committed to utilize union labor at New London waterfront,” he said.

With Connecticut, like other states up and down the Eastern Seaboard, committing to buy more offshore wind power, both New London and Bridgeport have been envisioned as hubs for the burgeoning industry. Last week, the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection announced that it selected New Bedford, Mass.-based Vineyard Wind to supply 804 megawatts of offshore wind power to Connecticut.

Vineyard Wind’s proposal to the state focused on redeveloping Bridgeport Harbor. Ørsted-Eversource also submitted a proposal to the state, which was seeking up to 2,000 megawatts of offshore wind power, but it was not chosen.

j.bergman@theday.com

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