FL Gov hopes to avert looming port strike - WFLA News Channel 8

Looming port strike deadline

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The financial deadline is not the only thing that is threatening to disrupt our nations economy.

A looming deadline for port workers to reach an agreement with their employers is threatening a strike at many east coast ports.

The White House is urging dockworkers and shipping companies to reach agreement "as quickly as possible" on a contract extension for East Coast and Gulf Coast dockworkers whose existing pact expires this week.

Obama spokesman Matt Lehrich says the White House is monitoring the situation closely and urges the parties to "continue their work at the negotiating table to get a deal done as quickly as possible."

Talks between the dockworkers and shipping companies broke down Dec. 18 amid unresolved issues such as wages and container royalties - the payments to union workers based on cargo weight. The International Longshoremen's Association and the U.S. Maritime Alliance are expected to meet this week.

 

Port operators and shipping companies, represented by the Marine Alliance, want to cap the royalties at last year's levels. They say the royalties have morphed into a huge expense unrelated to their original purpose and amount to a bonus averaging $15,500 a year for East Coast workers already earning more than $50 an hour.

The longshoremen's union says the payments are an important supplemental wage, not a bonus.

The National Retail Federation has asked the Obama administration to use "all means necessary" to prevent a strike.

On Thursday, Florida Governor Richard Scott held a conference call with Florida port leaders on the issue.

"We are together on this call today for one reason – we must help the Florida families whose jobs and livelihoods depend on our Florida ports," Governor Scott said.

The current contract is set to expire on December 29th. If an agreement is not reached, Florida's ports could be shut down, and according to Gov. Scott "sending shockwaves through jobs all across our state… a shutdown of Florida ports is simply not an option for Florida families."

Governor Scott is hoping President Obama will intervene, invoking the Taft-Hartley Act, to prevent a possible strike.

Cargo-related activity at Florida seaports currently generates more than 550,000 direct and indirect jobs in Florida, and contributes approximately $66 billion in economic value to the economy. 

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