Contract talks continue between longshoremen, port operators

With a little more than two weeks to go before a contract extension between East Coast and Gulf dockworkers and port operators expires, the federal mediator said Thursday that progress is being made toward a long-term settlement.

George Cohen, director of the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service, said the International Longshoremen's Association representing 14,500 union members and United States Maritime Alliance, which represents 14 ports and shipping companies, met between Tuesday and Thursday, and have agreed "that the negotiations will continue under our auspices."

A crippling coast wide port strike — the first in 35 years — was averted on Dec. 29, when both sides settled a major sticking point involving wages and agreed to an extension that expires on Feb. 6. About 1,200 longshoremen work at the Port of Baltimore.

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