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Port Talks Break for Visit to L.A. Sites

July 09, 2002|NANCY CLEELAND | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Shipping lines and dockworkers broke from high-stakes contract negotiations in San Francisco on Monday for a two-day tour of port facilities in Los Angeles and Long Beach. The visit was arranged to allow negotiators to see firsthand the technologies that are being discussed at the bargaining table.

Sources from both the Pacific Maritime Assn., representing transpacific carriers, and the International Longshore and Warehouse Union characterized the talks as moving very slowly, with labor-cutting technologies and the union health benefit package the main areas of contention.

The contract, which covers about 10,000 workers in the Western U.S., was due to expire last week, but both parties have agreed to day-to-day extensions. No slowdowns or other disruptions have been reported, to the relief of retailers across the country who are counting on back-to-school and holiday shipments.

The fear of disruption itself is already causing problems, however. Many retailers moved their goods through the ports ahead of schedule to head off potential supply problems and are now holding full containers in their parking lots.

That has caused a shortage of the wheeled platforms used to move the containers back and forth.

The West Coast Waterfront Coalition, which includes retailers and manufacturers that use the ports, issued an appeal to its members to "be good port citizens" and return the platforms.

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