Port labor negotiators agree to extend talks

Cohen said the extension will "provide the parties an opportunity to focus on the outstanding core issues in a deliberate manner apart from the pressure of an immediate deadline," though he added that FMCS could not reveal further details about the talks. 

"The negotiations on the master agreement will be conducted during the same time frame as negotiations for local agreements," Cohen said. 

The extension of the negotiations was immediately cheered by groups representing the retail industry. 

“The 90 day extension is welcomed news for retailers because it ensures that a work stoppage at the ports will not interfere with the flow of goods during the critical holiday season,” Retail Industry Leaders Association (RILA) Vice President Kelly Kolb said in a statement. 

“Ports play a critical role in the supply chain and a potential disruption would be harmful to the retail industry as it would lead to lost sales and aggravated customers," Kolb continued. “RILA will continue to closely monitor the progress of negotiations and strongly urge the parties to reach a long-term agreement as soon as possible in order to remove the threat of a devastating work stoppage at the East and Gulf Coast ports.” 

National Retail Federation Vice President for Supply Chain and Customs Policy Jonathan Gold expressed similar sentiments. 

“This is a significant step forward, and signals that both sides – labor and management – are serious about reaching a deal," he said. “The National Retail Federation (NRF) has long urged both sides to continue their negotiations up to and beyond the September 30 contract deadline in order to avoid any supply chain disruption or delay, and we applaud today’s decision."

Gold said the extended negotiation period "should provide for a stable holiday shipping and shopping season over the next few months." 

But he added: "Until a final contract is ratified, America’s retail community will remain concerned. NRF continues to urge both sides to negotiate in good faith to reach a firm and final deal for the good of the supply chain, and the good of the U.S. economy.”

There are 82 ports in the United States that could have been affected by a possible work stoppage because non-East Coast ports would have faced a deluge of shipments.