Grain terminal operators back off from Saturday deadline

Operators say they're awaiting a union response

By Gordon Oliver, Columbian business editor

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Grain terminal operators said Friday that they are awaiting a union response to their latest contract offer but have "no present plans" to lock the union workers out at six grain export terminals, including United Grain Corp.'s facility at the Port of Vancouver.

"We plan to remain in full operation," the terminal operators said in a statement released by Pat McCormick, Portland-based spokesman for the Pacific Northwest Grain Handlers Association.

One week ago, the group had set a deadline of 5 p.m. Saturday for the International Longshore and Warehouse Union to accept a contract offer or face a lockout. The union's contract at six terminals on the Columbia River and on Puget Sound expired Sept. 30.

Jennifer Sargent, a spokeswoman for the union, did not return a phone call seeking comment Friday.

Earlier this week, the ILWU ended a crippling eight-day walkoff at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach after reaching an agreement for clerical workers at the Southern California ports.