Mediators to Help West Coast Dockworkers and Employers Reach Contract

LOS ANGELES (Los Angeles Times/TNS) -

In a de-escalation of heated contract negotiations, West Coast dockworkers and their shipping-line employers asked that a federal mediator help them reach a new agreement.

The Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service said late Monday that it had received a “joint request” from the parties, and that a mediator has been assigned to help “bring these important negotiations to a mutually acceptable resolution.”

The mediation service said negotiations “will continue as soon as possible,” but didn’t say when.

Contract talks between the International Longshore and Warehouse Union and employers — ongoing for eight months — have grown increasingly hostile since November.

The two sides accuse each other of causing congestion at ports up and down the West Coast, including Los Angeles and Long Beach. The persistent bottlenecks have wreaked havoc on supply chains across the country, delaying the shipment of goods and causing some businesses to lose sales.

Employers urged the union late last month to agree to federal mediation; it didn’t until this week. The sides reached a tentative deal on healthcare in August, but other issues remain unresolved.

About 20,000 dockworkers at 29 West Coast ports have been working without a contract since July.