Negotiations between the Pacific Maritime Association (PMA) and the International Longshore and Warehousing Union (ILWU), regarding workers contracts, have been rumbling on for months.
It has resulted in major disruption at the ports due to "work slowdown", which is said to have been costing the US meat and poultry industry millions of dollars a week, due to meat destined for export being left to languish in containers at the port.
However "a tentative agreement" on a new five-year contract, covering workers at all 29 West Coast ports, was announced on Friday (20 February).
The deal was reached with assistance from US Secretary of Labor Tom Perez and federal mediation and conciliation service deputy director Scot Beckenbaugh, but no further details are to be released at this time, with the agreement subject to ratification by both parties.
"After more than nine months of negotiations, we are pleased to have reached an agreement that is good for workers and for the industry," said PMA president James McKenna and ILWU president Bob McEllrath in a joint statement. "We are also pleased that our ports can now resume full operations."
The US Meat Export Federation (USMEF) has welcomed the news. Philip Seng, president and chief executive, said increased congestion at the ports had put the US’ relationships with is global customer base at risk. "With nearly 80% of our waterborne red meat exports utilising West Coast ports, this situation had become very damaging not only for exporters, but also for farmers, ranchers, processors and everyone in the supply chain."
He said he hoped the two parties would ratify the new contract as soon as possible and clear the backlog at the ports, so that normal service could be resumed.