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Rail News: Labor

Eleventh-hour agreement averted port strike on East, Gulf coasts last week


The International Longshoremen's Association (ILA) and U.S. Maritime Alliance on Dec. 28 agreed to a 30-day extension of their master labor contract, averting a potential strike at East and Gulf coast ports that was slated to begin Dec. 29. The extension expires on Jan. 28.

The agreement followed meetings the two parties held late last week with the director of the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service (FMCS).

"The container royalty payment issue has been agreed upon in principle by the parties, subject to achieving an overall collective bargaining agreement," said FMCS Deputy Director for Mediation Services Scot Beckenbaugh in a prepared statement, adding that the parties agreed to continue negotiating all remaining master agreement issues, including those pertaining to New York and New Jersey.

The agreement represents a "major positive step" toward achieving an overall collective bargaining agreement, he said.

"While some significant issues remain in contention, I am cautiously optimistic that they can be resolved in the upcoming 30-day extension period," said Beckenbaugh.

National Retail Federation (NRF) officials urged both parties to remain at the negotiating table until a long-term contract agreement is finalized.

"While a contract extension does not provide the level of certainty that retailers and other industries were looking for, it is a much better result than an East and Gulf Coast port strike that would have shut down 14 container ports from Maine to Texas," said NRF President and Chief Executive Officer Matthew Shay in a prepared statement. "Our ports and the cargo and containers that flow through them are truly our economic lifelines to the world."

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