Retailers Urge Continued Dialogue in East and Gulf Coast Ports Contract Negotiations

By MarEx 2012-07-16 15:46:11

The National Retail Federation called on labor and management officials at the East and Gulf Coast ports to continue contract negotiations in order to avoid any potential supply chain disruption, delay or stoppage, which could stifle global commerce and jeopardize the fragile U.S. economic recovery.

“Any kind of disruption at the ports would not only add costly delays to our members’ supply chains and other industries relying on East and Gulf Coast maritime facilities, but potentially further threaten the fragile economic recovery as we enter the peak [holiday] shipping season,” NRF President and CEO Matthew Shay said in a letter. “It is important to note that even the perceived risk of a disruption has already forced retailers and other shippers to reevaluate their use of East and Gulf Coast ports.”

Shay’s remarks came in a letter to the International Longshoremen’s Association, which represents the dock workers, and United States Maritime Alliance, Ltd., which represents the terminal operators. The two sides have held contract negotiations over the past few months with another round scheduled for July 18-21.

“We ask that you continue the negotiations without delay, and without impacting commerce moving through the ports,” Shay said. “We would further ask that you issue a statement committing to continue negotiating and working without interruption, even if negotiations extend beyond the September 30th contract expiration.”

The nation’s retailers believe that the two sides should continue working in good faith to reach an agreement even after the current contract expires at the end of September. Differences should be worked out at the negotiating table, not the picket line.

A 2002 lockout at the West Coast ports during contract negotiations adversely affected the global supply chain and upended U.S.-based manufacturing, retailing and agricultural commerce for months. Some estimate that the 10-day stoppage cost the economy several billion dollars a day.

“We urge you to quickly agree on a framework for a new contract and commit yourselves to having a contract ratified well before the current contract’s September 30 expiration date,” Shay said. “These negotiations are important to all of the import and export industries who rely on these ports to move the nation’s commerce.”