Tentative deal reached in ports dispute

Tentative deal reached in ports dispute

Negotiators reached a tentative agreement Friday night to end a contentious labor dispute that led to a partial shutdown of 29 ports on the west coast.

The standoff between port operators and the dock workers' union had lasted 9 months and led to pressure from lawmakers and business groups on the White House to intervene as fears grew over the dispute's economic toll.

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According to reports the two sides agreed to a five-year labor contract, with terms yet to be publicly disclosed. Both parties must ratify the compromise.

The White House hailed the agreement late Friday as "great news" and a "huge relief for our economy – particularly the countless American workers, farmers, and businesses that have been affected by the dispute and those facing even greater disruption and costs with further delays."

President Obama had sent Labor Secretary Tom Perez to help negotiate an end to the labor fight.

"The President was kept updated on the negotiations over the past several weeks, including receiving an update last night from Secretary Perez," said the statement from the White House. "The President is grateful to Secretary Perez for his hard work bringing about a successful resolution to this dispute, and for the help of federal mediator Scot Beckenbaugh."  

The White House said Obama is calling on "the parties to work together to clear out the backlogs and congestion in the West Coast Ports as they finalize their agreement."

The contract between ports and dock workers was slated to expire in July. Despite negotiations, the two sides were only able to agree to temporary extensions until Friday's breakthough. The long standoff led to cargo delays and ports being forced to scale back operations.

Business groups also applauded the deal.

“We congratulate the ILWU [International Longshore and Warehouse Union] and PMA [Pacific Maritime Association] for finally coming to agreement on a new labor contract. It is now time for the parties to quickly ratify the deal and immediately focus on clearing out the crisis-level congestion and backlog at the ports," said National Retail Federation President and CEO Matthew Shay in a statement.

“We also thank Secretary Perez and the administration for engaging the parties on this critically important economic and supply chain priority," he added.

Shay cautioned that all groups must "dedicate ourselves to finding a new way to ensure that this nightmare scenario is not repeated again." 

"If we are to truly have modern international trade, supply chain and transportation systems, we must develop a better process for contract negotiations moving forward. We must commit whatever resources necessary to ensure that this will not happen again,” he said.

This story was updated at 11:03 p.m.