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Published: 21 September 2012
East Coast strike averted - for now
The International Longshoremen’s Association (ILA) and the United States Maritime Alliance (USMX) have agreed to a 90-day extension to contract talks, postponing the strike that would have come into effect on the US east coast on 1 October.
A mediator from the US Federal Mediation & Conciliation Service (FMCS) is now assisting with the negotiations, which are said to be making progress.
FMCS Director George Cohen said the 90-day extension was agreed at a “productive negotiation session, in which progress was made on several important subjects”. The parties now have until December 29 to negotiate a new contract, which takes away the potential for a strike to delay shipments for the Christmas peak season.
Shippers will be relieved, but some had already been making alternative arrangements or shipped goods early where possible. August throughput was up 13% in Savannah, 19% at Charleston and 24% in Virginia. By contrast volume at Los Angeles fell 2.3%.
The Virginia Port Authority began operating Saturday gates to allow containers to be cleared before any strike and launched a web page dedicated “to helping disseminate up-to-date local information to stakeholders and the public on the pending US East Coast labor stoppage”.
Any information on progress as the talks progress, however, is likely to be minimal at best. Previously each side had issued press releases accusing the other of failing to negotiate in good faith and jeopardising the economy in the process, but the FMCS wants to put a stop to that.
“Due to the sensitive nature of these high profile negotiations, we will have no further comment on the schedule for the negotiations, their location, or the substance of what takes place during those negotiations,” it said in a statement.