Tentative West Coast dock pact reached

West Coast dockworkers and shipping companies have reached a tentative contract agreement with the International Longshore and Warehouse Union. The union is scheduled to vote on the new contract the week of December 9. The pact announced late Saturday comes after weeks of negotiations and nearly two months after the start of a lockout that caused cargo to pile up at West Coast ports. The 10-day shutdown ended only after President George W. Bush invoked the Taft-Hartley Act, sending talks into mediation. Union president James Spinosa urged members to ratify the proposal by the Pacific Maritime Assn. (PMA) because it upheld the union’s core principles. “We worked in good faith with PMA and succeeded in bringing new technology to our ports while achieving vital pension and economic security, strong health care benefits and safety protections for our workers and their families,” Spinosa said. The six-year deal would provide substantial wage and benefit improvements for union members, said Peter Hurtgen, head of the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service. In exchange, the union agreed to changes in technology and dispute resolution that the companies wanted. The union agreed to lose about 400 positions as more efficient cargo-tracking technology is introduced at 29 Pacific ports. Hurtgen said he would be surprised if union members don't approve the deal.

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