Port dispute parties agree to 90-day contract extension

fmcs logoSEPTEMBER 20, 2012 — There's a ray of hope in the labor dispute that could close 14 ports on the U.S.East and Gulf coasts.

It comes in the shape of the following statement Statement by Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service Director George H. Cohen on negotiations between the United States Maritime Alliance and International Longshoremen's Association Labor:

"I am pleased to announce that at the close of today's productive negotiation session, in which progress was made on several important subjects, the parties have agreed to extend the collective bargaining agreement due to expire on September 30, 2012 for a ninety (90) day period, i.e. through December 29, 2012. In taking this significant step, the parties emphasized that they are doing so 'for the good of the country' to avoid any interruption in interstate commerce.

"This extension will provide the parties an opportunity to focus on the outstanding core issues in a deliberate manner apart from the pressure of an immediate deadline. The negotiations on the Master Agreement will be conducted during the same time frame as negotiations for local agreements. The negotiations will continue under the auspices of  the FMCS. 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."

Among those breathing a sigh of relief were retailers.

"The 90 day extension is welcomed news for retailers because it ensures that a work stoppage at the ports will not interfere with the flow of goods during the critical holiday season," said Kelly Kolb, Vice President For Government Affairs, Retail Industry Leaders Association (RILA). "Ports play a critical role in the supply chain and a potential disruption would be harmful to the retail industry as it would lead to lost sales and aggravated customers.

"RILA will continue to closely monitor the progress of negotiations and strongly urges the parties to reach a long-term agreement as soon as possible in order to remove the threat of a devastating work stoppage at the East and Gulf Coast ports." 

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