Grain terminal operators face negotiations deadline

A midnight deadline could trigger lockout as six export terminals

By Gordon Oliver, Columbian business editor

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With a midnight deadline looming for a possible lockout at six grain export terminals, including the United Grain Corp. terminal at the Port of Vancouver, terminal owners were considering the union’s request for an extension of negotiations.

The International Longshore and Warehouse Union has said talks are not at an impasse, and that the earliest union members could vote on an offer would be Dec. 21 and 22. Pat McCormick, spokesman for the Pacific Northwest Grain Handlers Association, said representatives of the six Columbia River and Puget Sound ports would issue a statement about this afternoon about their next move, he said.

The owners have made a contract offer to the union with a deadline of midnight tonight. If owners are unwilling to extend discussions, they could impose the new contract, potentially provoking a strike. The last contract expired Sept. 30.

The terminals export $10 billion of wheat, corn, and soybeans each year. They handle about 25 percent of U.S. grain exports.