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 statement.
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 said.
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.