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ILA, USMX Contract Deadline Extended, Possible Strike Halted

WASHINGTON - The United States Maritime Alliance (USMX) and International Longshoremen's Association (ILA) have agreed to continue talks and extend the September 30 contract deadline to December 29, 2012, preventing any immediate strikes along East and Gulf Coast ports.

In a statement given by George H. Cohen, director, Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service (FMCS), both parties have agreed to extend their collective negotiations over ILA contracts "for the good of the country" and to avoid any interruption to U.S. commerce this fall. The ILA has threatened to strike if an agreement was not reached by the previous Septemebr 30 deadline, which would have severely affected this year's holiday shopping season.The extension will allow both parties to continue to discuss wages, benefits and other issues under a new contract without the pressure of an immediate deadline.

Both parties first started to discuss the specifics of an updated ILA contract in June, but an agreement was never reached during the initial three-day meeting. Talks resumed in Delray Beach, FL on July 18 and again in August, which ended in ILA dockworkers walking away from talks following the USMX's insistence to negotiate on terminal efficiency improvements, which could result in ILA lay offs.

Industry organizations have been expressing concern over a possible port strike. The National Retail Federation and Retail Industry Leaders Association both sent letters to both parties urging them to reach some agreement on the matter. Most recently, This week, the Toy Industry Association sent a letter asking the ILA and USMX to reach a settlement as soon as possible to avoid any interruption to the holiday toy shopping.

The negotiations will continue to take place under the guidance of the FMCS. Due to the sensitive nature of these negotiations, the USMX and ILA we will have no further comment on the schedule for the negotiations, including the location of future meetings or what takes place during those negotiations, according to the statement.

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