The threat of a strike at 14 East and Gulf Coast ports has dimmed as union port workers and shipping companies have apparently agreed to a new contract, according to reports.
The International Longshoremen's Association was days away from a strike when on Friday, a federal mediator announced an agreement. Charleston's port had announced extended hours to deal with a potential strike this week. That's since been called off, the Post and Courier reports.
The terms of the new contract are private, and there's still some negotiations left on the table, but the federal mediator said there would be no work stoppage.
"The tentative agreement is subject to the ratification procedures of both parties and, as well, to agreements being achieved in a number of local union negotiations," said Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service Director George H. Cohen. "Those local negotiations are ongoing and will continue without interruption to any port operation."
Shipping companies, represented by the Maritime Alliance, had sought concessions on per-container royalty payment for Longshoremen. Those fees were put in place in the 1960s to offset job losses caused by shipping terminal's conversion to container shipping.
News of the agreement brought praise from the business world, which worried that a work stoppage at East and Gulf Coast ports would throw the U.S. economy into a tailspin.
"Throughout the process, (the National Retail Federation) has stressed the vital economic importance of keeping the ports open to international trade and commerce," said Matthew Shay, NRF president and CEO. "Our ports and the cargo that flows through them, be it automobiles or ottomans, are truly our economic lifeline to the world."
The deal is tenative. It requires ratification by both parties, and there are still some local terms that must be worked out at individual ports, according to the