The New York Times
Saturday, December 29, 2012
Port Strike Averted After Partial Deal With Dockworkers Union
By STEVEN GREENHOUSE
Dockworkers dropped their threat of an imminent strike against ports from Boston to Houston after their union and shipping companies reached a deal on the main point of their dispute, a federal mediator announced on Friday.
The mediator said the two sides had agreed to extend the existing contract by 30 days, to Jan. 28, to give them time to try to reach an agreement on the remaining issues, including what the companies say are antiquated work rules. Late Friday, the two sides issued a new announcement, saying they had agreed to extend the contract an additional week, to Feb. 6, creating a new potential strike deadline.
The partial agreement means that the union, the International Longshoremen’s Association, will not carry out its threat to have 14,500 dockworkers go on strike this Sunday at 14 ports along the East and Gulf Coasts.
In a statement on Friday, George H. Cohen, director of the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service, said the two sides had reached an agreement in principle on a particularly contentious issue, known as container royalty payments.
The shipping companies share those payments with union members for each ton of cargo handled.
The union had for months denounced the companies’ proposal to freeze those payments for current longshoremen and eliminate them for future employees. No details about the agreement were disclosed.
“What I can report is that the agreement on this important subject represents a major positive step toward achieving an overall collective bargaining agreement,” Mr. Cohen said. “While some significant issues remain, I am cautiously optimistic that they can be resolved in the 30-day extension period.”