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Port Talks Stall on New Technology

September 25, 2002|NANCY CLEELAND | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Labor talks between West Coast dockworkers and shipping lines followed a familiar pattern of promise and disappointment Tuesday as negotiators tried to hammer out an agreement on the thorniest issue on the table--the introduction of labor-saving technology at port terminals.

Meanwhile, the group representing shipping lines said sporadic slowdowns were reported at ports along the coast, and warned that it remained willing to lock union workers out of the ports if they persisted. The union denied its members were intentionally slowing work, but said that congestion at ports because of high volume was causing delays.

Negotiators for the International Longshore and Warehouse Union, which represents 10,500 dockworkers on the U.S. coast, and the Pacific Maritime Assn., which is bargaining on behalf of transpacific shipping lines and terminal operators, said Monday that they appeared close to introducing labor-saving technology to the docks--a key obstacle to a contract.

But the deal evaporated at a meeting Tuesday, a PMA official said, when it became clear that the union and shipping lines understood the agreement differently.

The PMA reported slowdowns in Tacoma, Wash., Portland, Ore., and Port Hueneme in Ventura County. The union issued a news release Tuesday insisting that the alleged slowdowns were caused by a record volume of cargo.

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