Dockworkers strike postponed after contract extended 30 days

WASHINGTON (WCSC / AP) - A potential dockworkers strike for ports up and down the east coast has been averted for another 30 days.

According to mediators, the contract between the International Longshoremen's Association and the United State Maritime Alliance was extended for 30 days on Friday morning. Officials say negotiations will continue.

Over 14,000 dockworkers at 14 ports were ready to walk off the job Sunday had a deal not been reached. The ports involved move as much as much as 100 million tons of goods each year, including everything from televisions, to sneakers, to snow shovels.

It is estimated that a strike could cost the nation a billion dollars each day.

As a result of the averted strike, regular operating hours at the Port of Charleston's two container terminals will resume. Previously scheduled extended gate hours for Friday will continue as planned until 8 p.m. Gate hours for Saturday have been canceled.

Issues including wages are involved, but the key sticking point is container royalties, which are payments to union workers based on cargo weight.

Port operators and shipping companies, represented by the Marine Alliance, want to cap the royalties at last year's levels. They say the royalties have morphed into a huge expense unrelated to their original purpose and amount to a bonus averaging $15,500 a year for East Coast workers already earning more than $50 an hour.

The longshoremen's union says the payments are an important supplemental wage, not a bonus.

The union represents 14,500 workers at more than a dozen ports extending south from Boston and handling 95 percent of all containerized shipments from Maine to Texas, about 110 million tons' worth.

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