Tags: US | economy | transport | labor | strike

Retailers Urge Obama to Help End Port Dispute

Friday, 20 Feb 2015 11:37 AM

The US National Retail Federation called for President Barack Obama to get involved directly if West Coast dockworkers and port operators cannot settle their dispute in talks Friday.

Negotiations in San Francisco overseen by Labor Secretary Thomas Perez over ending a labor-management standoff that has slowed operations at key ports for trade with Asia finished a third day Thursday without a deal.

Perez is expected to oversee a fourth day of talks Friday, but according to reports has warned the two sides to strike a deal for a new dockworker contract now or see talks move to Washington, which would place more federal pressure on the two parties.

The National Retail Federation said the dispute is "allowing the economy to be held hostage".

"We understand the secretary has given the parties a deadline to reach an agreement," the NRF said in a statement.

"If a deal is not reached today, we support the decision to move the negotiations to Washington and we call upon the president to personally engage in the discussions until an agreement is reached."

The labor contract between the Pacific Maritime Association, representing management for 29 West Coast ports, and the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU), representing 20,000 dockworkers, expired in July.

Since October the dockworkers have steadily slowed the processing of incoming and outgoing freight at ports that handle about half of the country's trade.

In response, the port owners have cancelled shifts and had multiple-day lockouts to deny the longshoremen holiday and overtime pay.

The result has been a backup of billions of dollars' worth of cargo, with heavily-laden container ships lined up outside ports from southern California to the border with Canada.

Pressure grew on both sides to compromise over what has been for weeks the key remaining issue, the arbitration system for labor disputes on the docks.

The ILWU wants more say on who can serve as an arbitrator, amid reports that the union believes the system has become more biased in favor of port management.

In an open letter Thursday, senators Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein, both Democrats representing California, pressed the two sides for a deal.

"While it is understandable that the parties can disagree, it is highly disappointing that with so much at stake, you have not been able to come up with a path forward on this one remaining issue," they said.

"The consequences of failing to resolve this dispute immediately would be devastating to our economy and to the millions of people who work hard every day for agricultural producers, manufacturers and other businesses, both large and small, in California and around the world."

 

© AFP 2017

 
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The US National Retail Federation called for President Barack Obama to get involved directly if West Coast dockworkers and port operators cannot settle their dispute in talks Friday.Negotiations in San Francisco overseen by Labor Secretary Thomas Perez over ending a...
US, economy, transport, labor, strike
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2015-37-20
Friday, 20 Feb 2015 11:37 AM
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