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The union representing 14,500 dockworkers on the East and Gulf coasts and the group representing shippers and port employers have averted a possible Oct. 1 strike by agreeing to extend the contract for 90 days.
The announcement came early Thursday (Sept. 20, 2012) afternoon after the International Longshoremen's Association and the U.S. Maritime Alliance met for two days at a New Jersey hotel with a federal mediator to avert the first strike in 35 years.
Talks on a master contract covering 14 ports, including Baltimore, broke off in late August with leaders of the International Longshoremen's Association and the U.S. Maritime Alliance accusing each other of bargaining in bad faith. The contract, which expires Sept. 30, covers nearly 1,200 longshoremen who work at the port of Baltimore.
Even though the largest ILA local, which represents the port of New York and New Jersey, has authorized a strike, the heated rhetoric that followed the breakdown of talks has quieted.
In a statement from the National Retail Federation, Jonathan Gold, vice president for supply chain and customs policy said “The National Retail Federation (NRF) has long urged both sides to continue their negotiations up to and beyond the September 30 contract deadline in order to avoid any supply chain disruption or delay, and we applaud today’s decision.
“This extension should provide for a stable holiday shipping and shopping season over the next few months.
“While this extension, facilitated by the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service, will provide both sides with more time, it is still critically important that USMX and ILA remain at the negotiation table to hammer out a final contract.
“Until a final contract is ratified, America’s retail community will remain concerned. NRF continues to urge both sides to negotiate in good faith to reach a firm and final deal for the good of the supply chain, and the good of the U.S. economy.”