U.S. Dockworkers’ Union Seeks Port Employers’ Final Contract Terms

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The International Longshoremen’s Association has sent a written request for final contract terms to the group representing U.S. East and Gulf Coast port employers.

Talks on a new deal to replace the pact expiring Sept. 30 broke down last week, raising the possibility of a strike during the critical autumn shipping season, when retailers traditionally stock up in advance of the holidays. The contract covers about 15,000 dockworkers at ports from Maine to Texas.

Union spokesman Jim McNamara held out the possibility Friday that the two sides could meet again, saying there’s a chance representatives of the United States Maritime Alliance, which includes shipping companies and marine terminal operators, may be invited to participate when the dockworkers’ union begins discussing the final terms.

Mr. McNamara said the timing of the meeting, and whether an invitation will be extended, remains uncertain.

A spokesperson for the maritime alliance couldn’t immediately be reached for comment Friday. The group previously has said it’s “ready to engage” again if discussions are substantive.

The U.S. retail sector’s main lobbying group has urged both sides to renew talks, warning earlier this week that the threat of a strike soon will force retailers to seek ways of importing goods that bypass the East Coast ports.

Mr. McNamara said the ILA sent its written request to the maritime alliance on Thursday. The union earlier had made a verbal request for final terms.

By Bob Sechler. (c) 2012 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.