The International Longshoremen’s Association and shipping companies reached a tentative new master contract late Friday evening, averting fears of a dockside strike that would have halted several East Coast ports, including Charleston, officials announced.
Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service Director George H. Cohen issued a statement saying the U.S. Maritime Alliance and the International Longshoremen’s Association have reached a tentative deal.
“The tentative agreement is subject to the ratification procedures of both parties and, as well, to agreements being achieved in a number of local union negotiations,” Cohen said. “Those local negotiations are ongoing and will continue without interruption to any port operation.”
Cohen declined to provide specifics in the deal, citing confidentiality of the involved parties.
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 ILA and the alliance have been tangled in contract talks for several months. The union in late December threatened to strike and cripple more than a dozen ports, including Charleston’s, but that was averted by a negotiations extension through Feb. 6.
The union has said one sticking point in the new contract was agreeing on the royalty payments workers get for every container they unload. The alliance has argued that the longshoremen, who it said make an average $124,138 per year in wages and benefits, are compensated well enough already.
Days ago, the State Ports Authority announced extended operation hours next week to lessen cargo disruptions at its busiest container terminals in case of a strike.
Allison Skipper, a spokeswoman for SPA, said Saturday that the extended hours have been canceled.
Reach Tyrone Richardson at 843-937-5550 and follow him on Twitter @tyrichardsonPC.