Ports from Boston to Houston could be shut down, causing a multi-billion dollar hit to the economy, if Longshoremen go on strike.
American businesses, including manufacturers and farmers are preparing for a potentially crippling strike by dockworkers along the US Eastern Seaboard and southern Gulf Coast.
The walkout may start next Sunday, when a 90-day extension of a contract between the International Longshoremen’s Association (ILA) and a number of shipping lines, port associations and terminal operators expires, threatening to bring port operations along US eastern and southern coasts to a standstill, The Los Angeles Times
Talks between the ILA and the US Maritime Alliance Ltd., “a group of ocean cargo shipping lines, cargo terminal operators and port associations at 14 US harbors,” broke down last week over the terms of a new six-year contract, the report adds, raising fears that the union may call for its first strike in 35 years.
The main point of disagreement between the two sides, according to the report, involves what is known as the “container royalty fees on cargo,” which complements the wages of dockworker receive.
Employers at shipping agencies and terminal operators intend to restrict such fees and limit who gets them. The union insists, however, that the royalty fees should not be altered.
The only factor that would alleviate the impact of the strike is that the current season is the slowest for incoming cargo via the sea.
However, in a letter to US President Barack Obama last week, a retail federation and coalition of national and state organizations insisted that a "failure to reach a contract agreement would result in a coast-wide shutdown at 14 containerized ports - from Maine to Texas - which would have serious economy-wide impacts," the report adds.
The letter urged Obama to adopt every possible measure to bring both sides back to the negotiating table and maintain the movement of cargo.
Meanwhile, in a strike late last month, most of the Los Angeles Port and half of the Long Beach Port in California were shut down during an eight-day strike by the clerical unit of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union.