Business

Port Strike Averted for Now, Threat Remains

By: Jim Turner | Posted: December 28, 2012 3:30 PM

A potential economically crippling longshoremen’s strike at  ports acorss Florida and along the U.S. East and Gulf coasts has been put off for a least a month.

The International's Association and the United States Maritime Alliance, which is comprised of container companies and port associations, have agreed to extend their contract negotiations through January.
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Gov. Rick Scott, while reiterating his desire for President Obama to step in to reduce the chance of a strike, expressed optimism the two sides can work out a settlement as they remain stuck over the management proposal to cap “container royalty” payments, which are used for worker salaries and health care.

“The 30-day extension in the negotiations between the International Longshoremen’s Association and the United States Maritime Alliance is certainly good news for Florida. Cargo-related activity at Florida seaports supports more than 550,000 direct and indirect jobs, and contributes approximately $66 billion to our economy,” Scott stated in a release.

“We are hopeful these two organizations will quickly reach a final agreement to permanently remove the threat of a port shut down that would devastate families all across our state.

“We are asking the President to pursue any means possible -- including invoking the Taft-Hartley Act -- to avoid a work stoppage in the weeks ahead. A shut down of Florida ports is simply not an option.”

The International Longshoremen's Association, which hasn’t gone on strike since 1977, and the U.S. Maritime Alliance Ltd., have been bickering since March over a six-year contract covering container work at the ports.

The current payment rates were set in the 1960s, when the docks had more workers as automation and container cargo were introduced.

The longshoremen were set to strike on Saturday.

Scott and port directors have urged President Obama to step in, with the biggest and most immediate impacts expected at PortMiami, JaxPort, Port Everglades and Port of Tampa.

The decision to continue talks was also praised by the National Retail Federation, which  has expressed concerns that the strike would harm the nation’s supply chain.

“While a contract extension does not provide the level of certainty that retailers and other industries were looking for, it is a much better result than an East and Gulf Coast port strike that would have shut down 14 container ports from Maine to Texas,” National Retail Federation President and CEO Matthew Shay stated in a release.

“A coast-wide port shutdown is not an option. It would have severe economic ramifications for the local, national and even global economies and wreak havoc on the supply chain.”


Reach Jim Turner at jturner@sunshinestatenews.com or at (772) 215-9889.



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