By Brooke Sutherland

Dockworkers and their employers reached a tentative agreement on royalty payments, averting a strike that would have shut down eastern U.S. ports for the first time in 35 years.

The International Longshoremen’s Association and the U.S. Maritime Alliance will continue negotiations for another 30 days, according to the Federal Conciliation and Mediation Service, which was working with the two groups. A strike would have closed ports from Maine to Texas that handle 45 percent of commerce.

The union and USMX, whose members include container-carrier companies, began negotiations in late March and reached tentative agreements in July on issues involving new technology and union jurisdiction over work on chassis used for cargo. Talks between the two sides had collapsed last week amid a dispute over so-called container royalty fees, or levies on shipments that supplement wages.

“The agreement on this important subject represents a major positive step toward achieving an overall collective bargaining agreement,” George Cohen, director of the federal agency, said in a statement. “While some significant issues remain in contention, I am cautiously optimistic that they can be resolved in the upcoming 30-day extension period.”

Copyright 2012 Bloomberg.

 

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