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Deal Reached Ending West Coast Port Strike

LOS ANGELES - Harbor clerks at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach have reached a tentative deal with terminal operators, ending an eight-day labor dispute that shut down shipments coming into the West Coast. The International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) Local 63 Office Clerical Unit and the Harbor Employers Association negotiated terms over the union's concerns on Tuesday, including control over outsourcing, or the transfer of jobs to workers elsewhere for less pay.

Hundreds of clerical employees, who went on strike on Nov. 27 and the thousands of longshoremen who had refused to cross their picket lines in support, returned to work today, according to officials for the ILWU.

Last Tuesday, an 800-member clerical workers unit of the ILWU local forced a shutdown at 10 of the twin ports' 14 container terminals with support from some 10,000 longshoremen and other union workers. The strike resulted in 18 freighters changing course and re-reouting cargo to ports in Northern California, Mexico and Panama, according to the Maritime Exchange of Southern California, while 13 additional ships were lined up at anchorages outside the Los Angeles-Long Beach complex waiting to unload their containers.

On Tuesday, George H. Cohen, director, Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service (FMCS) responded to the port strikes between the International Longshore and Warehouse Union Local 63 Office Clerical Unit and the Harbor Employers Association and the resuming of talks. "Based on a joint request from the parties, negotiations between the International Longshoremen and Warehouse Union Office Clerical Workers and the Harbor Employers Association will be conducted under FMCS auspices," he said. "I and Deputy Director Scot L. Beckenbaugh will convene the parties for an initial meeting at a date and location to be determined."

The ports account for nearly 40 percent of all U.S. container imports and cost Southern California, an estimated $8 billion, including lost wages and the costs of re-routing cargo rerouted to other ports during the past week. An estimated $650 million in trade was lost each day of the strike according to officials from the Port of Long Beach in a New York Times report.

Los Angeles and Long Beach ports handled more than $400 billion in goods arriving and leaving the West Coast by ship last year and support 1.2 million Southern California jobs.

Earlier this year, the International Longshoremen's Association (ILA) threatened to strike along the East and Gulf Coast ports. The ILA and the United States Maritime Alliance (USMX) agreed to continue talks and extend the September 30 contract deadline to December 29, 2012, preventing any immediate strikes or disruption of fourth quarter holiday shipments.

Both parties will resume talks this month. An ILA strike would affect 14 East and Gulf Coast ports, which account for 95 percent of all container shipments to the eastern seaboard.

 

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