NEW YORK An imminent
strike by about 15,000 members of the International
Longshoremens Association (ILA) at 14 major East and Gulf
coast ports has been temporarily averted after the union and
the U.S. Maritime Alliance (USMX) agreed to extend talks
following a meeting brokered by the Federal Mediation and
Conciliation Service (FMCS).
A statement released by the FMCS
Friday morning originally said talks would be extended through
Jan. 28, but the ILA and the USMX told AMM late Friday
that the deadline had been pushed back to Feb. 6 to account for
the year-end holiday season.
"While some significant issues remain in contention, I am
cautiously optimistic that they can be resolved in the upcoming
... extension period," FMCS director George Cohen said in a
The FMCS said the extension came
after the two sides agreed in principle on the issue of
container royalties, the major hurdle in previous negotiations
amm.com, Dec. 21). The FMCS said it could not
disclose the terms of that agreement as talks are still
ongoing. "What I can report is that the agreement on this
important subject represents a major positive step toward
achieving an overall collective bargaining agreement," Cohen
The extension avoids the
"imminent deadline for a work stoppage that could have
economically disruptive nationwide implications," he added.
Ports and logistics companies
had already started preparing for the possible strike, which
would have gone into effect at 12:01 a.m. Sunday had no deal
been reached (
amm.com, Dec. 27).
The union had said it would not
handle containerized cargo during a work stoppage, although it
would have made exceptions for unfrozen perishable commodities,
containerized mail, passenger ships, containerized military
cargo excluding household goods, and non-containerized cargo
and automobiles, ILA president Harold Daggett said in a Dec. 19
letter on the unions website.
The FMCS did not say when talks
would resume. "The negotiation schedule shall be set by the
FMCS after consultation with the parties," Cohen said.