LOS ANGELES: The union of about 20,000 dockworkers and a group of their employers at 29 US West Coast ports have said that they are making slow but steady progress in months-long contract talks seen by the shipping industry as a contributing factor in chronic cargo backups.
However, neither side has ventured to say how much longer it might take to reach a settlement, nor both parties continued to abide by a news blackout on the details of their talks and the issues that divide them.
The International Longshore and Warehouse Union and the Pacific Maritime Association, representing terminal operators and shipping lines at the ports, opened their talks in May and mutually agreed to keep negotiating after their old contract expired June 30.
The parties said in August they had reached a tentative deal on healthcare benefits, “but apart from that everything else remains on the table,” association spokesman Steve Getzug said. Since resuming talks after a hiatus in November, negotiators have met on a fairly regular basis, they said.
“Both sides are working hard, and every day they get a little more done, and every day they get closer to a settlement,” union spokesman Craig Merrilees said. “Any time you’re meeting and talking, that’s progress,” Getzug said.
Ninety union delegates from all 29 ports were expected to review the status of talks when they convened on Monday in San Francisco for a caucus, Merrilees said, adding that the session may be adjourned early to allow negotiations to resume.