NEW YORK (AP) - The union for longshoremen along the East Coast and Gulf of Mexico has agreed to extend its contract until early February, averting a possible strike that could have crippled operations at ports that handle about 40 percent of all U.S. container cargo, a federal mediator announced Friday.
The extension came after the union and an alliance of port operators and shipping lines resolved one of the stickier points in their monthslong contract negotiations, involving royalty payments to the longshoremen for each container they unload.
Negotiations will continue until at least Feb. 6. Some important contract issues remain to be resolved, but the head of the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service, George Cohen, said the agreement on royalties was "a major positive step forward."
In this Dec. 18, 2012 file photo, a truck driver watches as a freight container, right, is lowered onto a tractor trailer by a container crane at the Port of Boston in Boston. The crane and a reach stacker, left, are operated by longshoremen at the port. The longshoremen's union may strike if they are unable to reach an agreement on their contract, which expires Dec. 29, 2012. A walkout by dock workers represented by the International Longshoremen’s Association would bring commerce to a near halt at ports from Boston to Houston. (AP Photo/Steven Senne, File)