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Port workers, operators extend negotiations by 30-days, avert strike

WASHINGTON, D.C. - An agreement in principle was reached on Thursday by East and Gulf Coast Port workers and operators with a federal mediator in labor contract negotiations that will allow both to avoid a shutdown of the nation's ports.

The International Longshoremen's Assn. and the U.S. Maritime Alliance - representing operators of 15 ports - reached an agreement in principle on the contentious issue of container royalties which was holding up an agreement, according to a Friday press release from the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service.

The parties agreed to an extension of 30 days to negotiate remaining issues.

Earlier, the Maritime Alliance said it wanted to cap container royalty payments and use the excess, not as savings for employers, but to help pay for other benefits for port workers.

The Maritime Alliance defines container royalties as supplemental wage payments based on cargo weight.

The union, however, had said container royalties were "untouchable." The FMCS did not disclose details of the container royalty payment agreement.

"The container royalty payment issue has been agreed upon in principle by the parties, subject to achieving an overall collective bargaining agreement," said FMCS Director George H. Cohen, in the release.

Contract talks between the port operators and unionized dockworkers collapsed last week, prompting fears of a shutdown of the nation's ports on Sunday. The parties agreed to meet with a federal mediator before the Dec. 29 contract expiration.

The original contract expired in late September, but the two sides agreed to a three-month extension while they continued to negotiate with the help of a federal mediator.


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