U.S. Port Strike: Talks Make Progress, Retailers Prepare for Strike

by Ship & Bunker News Team
Monday January 21, 2013

Three days of talks between the United States Maritime Alliance (USMX) and the International Longshoremen's Association (ILA) "made progress" last week in seeking an agreement that would avert a major strike on the U.S. East and Gulf Coasts in February, the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service (FMCS) has said.

As has been usual for the FMCS, service director George H. Cohn did not release further details of the talks to date, but he said the parties have agreed discussions between them will continue.

Workers at 14 major East Coast ports, including major transit hubs in New York and New Jersey, have threatened to walk out on February 7, 2012 if an agreement is not reached.

The discussions broke down last month, raising fears that a strike could begin on December 29, but the deadline was extended after the two sides reached an agreement on the key issue of container royalties.

The potential for a strike was said to have pushed import volumes up this month, with the latest volumes for January 2013 up 2.3 percent from the same period last year as retailers increase inventory to prepare for a possible shutdown of ports, CNBC reports.

"We are glad to hear that the ILA and USMX have made progress during this week's negotiating session," said Jon Gold, vice president of supply chain and customs policy for the National Retail Federation.

"It is critical that the parties remain at the table and continue to work with the federal mediator to reach a new long-term contract before the February 6 contract extension expires.

"The continuing uncertainty surrounding these negotiations has already had an impact on global supply chains as companies must continue to plan for the potential for supply chain disruptions."

Ship & Bunker reported Thursday that the contract between ILA and the New York Shipping Association (NYSA) is said to be key to the approval of a coastwide contract, talks ILA preivously walked out on.