Grain labor dispute to go back to mediation

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Portland — The labor dispute between the Pacific Northwest Grain Handlers Association and the International Longshore and Warehouse Union is headed back to mediation this week, following the passing of a 5 p.m. Saturday deadline set by grain terminal operators without a new labor contract.

The impasse involves six Columbia River and Puget Sound grain export terminals, including the United Grain Corp. terminal at the Port of Vancouver.

The grain handlers' association released the following statement through its spokesman, Pat McCormick, at the 5 p.m. deadline for what it called its final contract offer:

"The ILWU did not respond to and therefore did not accept the Grain Handlers final offer, which was open for acceptance until 5 p.m. Dec. 8. Federal mediators have called for additional meetings on Dec. 11th and 12th. While the Grain Handlers are aware of nothing that changes our conclusions that we are at a bargaining impasse, we agreed to the meetings requested by the federal mediators and will approach them with an open mind. The Grain Handlers continue in full operation and have no present plans for a lockout."

Union officials, who did not return calls for comment on Friday, have said that negotiations have not yet reached an impasse.