Port strike for east and gulf coasts averted for 30 days

Talks continue on issues affecting 15 ports

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MIAMI - A looming longshoremen’s strike set for midnight Saturday, which threatened havoc at 15 ports along the eastern seaboard and Gulf Coast, has been averted for at least a month.

The two sides, the International Longshoreman’s Association and the U.S. Maritime Alliance, announced Friday morning they would continue to negotiate after a couple of days of tense mediation.

After eight months of talks the sides went their separate ways Dec. 18. But talks picked up again this week in response to pressure from port directors, retail federations, even the White House.

The longshoremen, a group of 14,650 workers, some who operate the giant gantry cranes at the nation’s ports, threatened to walk out on contract talks early Sunday morning if the U.S. Maritime Alliance didn’t back off its demand that the union stop receiving royalties, or bonuses, for each container leaving or loaded onto a ship. In many cases those bonuses allow longshoremen to double their salaries to more than $100,000 a year.

Port directors throughout the nation have expressed concern that a strike would virtually halt economic activity throughout the country. It would affect mostly non-perishable goods like clothing and televisions. PortMiami does close to $20 billion a year in container business.

The longshoremen’s contract actually expired at the end of September, but the sides agreed to continue talks for 90 days.