Talks resume on contract dispute
Updated: Thursday, January 10, 2013 10:50 AM
Terminals 'in full operation and have no present plans for a lockout'
By MATEUSZ PERKOWSKI
Several Northwest grain handlers agreed to resume talks in an ongoing labor contract dispute with Longshoremen, but they still think the negotiation is deadlocked.
The controversy threatens to disrupt crop shipments through six export terminals that handle roughly a fourth of the outgoing grain in the U.S., potentially plugging the export pipeline for farmers and elevators.
The International Longshore and Warehouse Union did not respond to deadlines set by the grain handlers on Nov. 28 and Dec. 8, but the lack of an agreement has thus far not led to a feared lockout or strike.
The union previously said it preferred to continue talks and did not want to strike.
The Pacific Northwest Grain Handlers Association, which represents the six terminals in Seattle, Tacoma and Vancouver, Wash., and Portland, said the facilities are "in full operation and have no present plans for a lockout" of union members.
The two sides agreed to sit down at additional meetings on Dec. 11 and 12 along with federal mediators who have tried to resolve the dispute, which centers on work rules rather than pay and benefits.
The grain handlers said in a statement they have an "open mind" about the meetings but "are aware of nothing that changes our conclusions that we are at a bargaining impasse."
A spokesperson for the union said it was looking forward to reaching a deal.