By Ria Novosti
A threatened strike on Sunday by thousands of US dockworkers that could have had drastic effects on the nation’s economy has been temporarily averted.
A federal mediator on Friday said that the expired contract would be extended for 30 days while the International Longshoreman’s Association (ILA) and the US Maritime Alliance (USMX), which represents shippers and port operators, continue to negotiate.
“While some significant issues remain in contention, I am cautiously optimistic that they can be resolved in the upcoming 30-day extension period,” George Cohen, director of the Federal Mediation & Conciliation Service, said in a statement on Friday after he met with both groups trying to avert the strike.
The 14,500 members of ILA were threatening a shutdown of 14 ports from Maine to Texas, where about 40 percent of the nation’s containerized cargo runs through, resulting in the US economy potentially losing $1 billion a day.
The heart of the dispute is over limits USMX wanted to place on dockworkers’ container royalties, which supplements their income and keeps their “benefits package financially strong,” ILA stated on its website. The royalties are paid to union members based on container weight.
“ILA work isn’t like other professions: no ships mean no work, but employers depend on a strong and skilled workforce when ships need to be worked. Container Royalty helps keep an ILA workforce available,” the union said on its website about the royalties that could average out to an additional $15,500 annually for some workers.
Cohen said USMX’s agreement to extend the contract “represents a major positive step toward achieving an overall collective bargaining agreement.”
USMX said in a press release that the strike would have wreaked “havoc on manufacturers, retailers, farmers and others who depend on the ports to move their supplies and products.”
Some of the companies that would have been affected include America’s top retailers and importers like Wal-Mart, Target, and Home Depot, as well as the nation’s top exporters like DuPont and Cargill, USMX said.
The shutdown could have also affected more than 500,000 workers who depend on port operations for jobs, such as truckers and other transportation industry employees responsible for delivering goods throughout the United States.