The threat of a shutdown at Charleston ports has been thwarted, temporarily.
The International Longshormen’s Association and shipping companies have agreed to a 30-day extension, officials announced today.
The extension stops 14,000 members of the ILA from going on strike Sunday, a stoppage that would have closed more several ports along the East Coast, including Charleston’s. The master contract between the ILA and the U.S. Maritime Alliance, a group representing shipping lines, terminal operators and port associations, expired in September.
The two sides agreed to extend it once already, for 90 days, but they have so far balked at extending it again when it expires at 12:01 a.m. Sunday. The union said its members would agree to an extension only if the alliance drops a proposal to freeze the royalty payments workers get for every container they unload. The alliance has argued that the longshoremen, who it said earn an average $124,138 per year in wages and benefits, are compensated well enough already.
Federal mediators have been trying to push negotiations along.
Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service director George H. Cohen on Monday organized the last-ditch meeting days ago to try to bring both sides to a resolution. Cohen released a statement Friday morning announcing the extension and some progress on talks.
“The container royalty payment issue has been agreed upon in principle by the parties, subject to achieving an overall collective bargaining agreement,” according to the statement.
Both sides have until midnight on Jan. 28 to reach a final decision.
See upcoming editions of The Post and Courier for more details.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.