Thursday, July 1, 1999

West Coast
approach deadline

But contract talks
have been amicable

From staff and wire reports


LOS ANGELES -- Union and shipping industry negotiators faced an afternoon deadline to finish contract talks aimed at keeping 14,700 longshore workers on the job at West Coast ports from San Diego to Seattle.

The current contract was scheduled to expire at 5 p.m. today West Coast time, but industry observers said there appeared to be little risk of a strike or other significant work stoppage.

"Nobody seems to be getting excited," said George Cunningham, publisher of the Cunningham Report, a newsletter focusing on the shipping industry.

If the deadline passes, talks in San Francisco between the International Longshore Workers Union and the Pacific Maritime Association probably will be extended, he said.

Officials for the union and the Pacific Maritime Association, which represents steamship companies and port terminal operators, declined comment.

Negotiations apparently have been amicable so far, which is considered good news for the companies, union members and anyone in America who buys, sells or hauls imported goods.

The talks are also vital to Hawaii, which gets most its food, construction materials, automobiles and other goods by sea aboard two shipping lines, Matson Navigation Co. and Sea-Land Service Co. Both are in the ILWU contract.

A separate contract for the Hawaii docks is also being negotiated. Talks began a week ago between ILWU Local 142, representing some 500 Hawaii stevedores, and the Hawaii Employers Council, representing management of the shipping and stevedore companies. Both sides said they have agreed to extend the Hawaii contract and keep talking. Usually the Hawaii negotiators wait for the results of the West Coast talks before wrapping up the local contract.

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