Last minute deal keeps ports in business - WFLA News Channel 8

Last minute deal keeps ports in business

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Containers arrive in our nation's ports daily, carrying nearly everything we buy - our clothes, furniture, toys.  But a labor dispute and pending strike by nearly 15,000 longshoremen threatened to halt any of those things from making it to our stores.

"The longshoreman are crucial to getting cargo on and off the vessels," said Walter M. Cline II President of J. Cortina, inc, an export broker in Tampa.

Moving those containers is worth billions to Florida.

Gov. Rick Scott this week called on President Barack Obama to step in before a strike could happen.

If the international Longshoremen's Association goes on strike, workers at 15 ports, including the Port of Tampa, would stop unloading cargo containers, a huge threat to the nation's economy.

"Everybody from your mom and pop retailer to the farmer to the trucking company that goes into to pick up the containers at the ports. So this is going to be felt not just at the local economy at the port but nationwide for everybody that relies on these ports to move their commerce," Maryland Port Administration spokesman Richard Scher said.

The sticking point is container royalties, a fee paid by shipping companies that's used to boost worker wages.  A contract between the union and a group of employers who hire longshoremen was set to expire Saturday.  But at nearly the last minute, a temporary deal was announced.  Negotiations will now continue until Feb. 6.

Cline said he's relieved about the extension.

"We have shipments coming in every week on vessels and our customers want that cargo," Cline said.

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