The negotiations between the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) and the Pacific Maritime Association (PMA) on a new contract covering nearly 20,000 longshore workers at twenty-nine West Coast ports have put on hold.
The parties said in a statement that they have agreed to take a 72-hour break from negotiations on a new coast-wide contract while the ILWU attends to an unrelated negotiation taking place in the Pacific Northwest.
During this break, starting at 8 a.m. on Tuesday, July 8th, through 8 a.m. on Friday, July 11th, the parties have agreed to extend the previous six-year contract, which expired last week.
While there still is no contract extension, cargo will keep moving, and normal operations will continue at the ports until an agreement can be reached between the parties involved.
The two said that they understand the strategic importance of the ports to the local, regional and US economies, and that they are aware of the need to finalize a new coast-wide contract as soon as possible to avoid any disruption to the jobs and commerce they support.
As the parties fail to conclude the talks launched in May, fears loom that this may result in major strike of workers and subsequent shutdown of West Coast ports.
The U.S. economy could lose as much as $2.5 billion a day if a prolonged West Coast port shutdown occurs according to a study conducted by the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) and the National Retail Federation (NRF).
The coast-wide labor contract is between employers who operate port terminals and shipping lines represented by the PMA and dockworkers represented by the ILWU.
The parties have negotiated a West Coast collective bargaining agreement since the 1930s.
Press Release, July 9th, 2014; Image: ILWU 13