Local Longshoremen's Association president weighs in on averted strike

By Ava

Charleston, S.C. (WCIV) -- Seaports from the East Coast to the Gulf of Mexico were ready to strike as negotiations on their employment contract came to a halt.

"There was no interest on either side to literally shut down the country, but you know, sometimes this is what struggles look like," said Kenneth Riley, International Longshoremen's Association President of Local 1422.

Riley said they have been in negotiations for months concerning all terms of their employment, but there is one sticking point -- a container royalty. Riley said the royalty is a tax placed on the container companies to keep their benefit fund healthy. He added that the container royalty has remained at $2 per ton since the 1960's.

"So there have been no increase, and we weren't seeking an increase. However the carriers were looking to discontinue that benefit and to phase it out, which we are totally opposed to," said Riley.{}

The workers contract will be re-newed temporarily to avoid a strike. The Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service released a statement by Director George Cohen, it says in part:

"The container royalty payment issue has been agreed upon in principle by the parties, subject to achieving an overall collective bargaining agreement. Given that negotiations will be continuing and consistent with the Agencies commitment of confidentiality to the parties, FMCS shall not disclose the substance of the container royalty payment agreement."