By Truckinginfo Staff

A looming strike at East and Gulf Coast ports has been avoided as the months-long labor negotiations finally reached a tentative agreement.

Late Friday, Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service Director George H. Cohen, who has been moderating the negotiations since last year, issued a statement indicating that a tentative agreement had been reached regarding the Master Agreement between the United States Maritime Alliance and the International Longshoremen’s Association.

In his statement, Cohen notes that "the tentative agreement is subject to the ratification procedures of both parties and, as well, to agreements being achieved in a number of local union negotiations. Those local negotiations are ongoing and will continue without interruption to any port operation."

Cohen did not disclose any details of the agreement between the two parties.

The FMCS has been leading negotiations between the two parties since last September, when the previous contract ended. Potential port strikes were averted when both parties agreed to extend the deadline for 90 days. They postponed the deadline two more times, with the most recent deadline set to end on Feb. 6.

The National Retail Federation, the world’s largest retail trade association, issued a statement from President and CEO Matthew Shay on the tentative contract agreement between the International Longshoremen’s Association and United States Maritime Alliance:

“The retail industry, which supports one in every four U.S. jobs, is pleased to hear that the ILA and USMX have reached a tentative, long-term master contract. We urge the parties to quickly complete any outstanding negotiations, including local negotiations at each of the individual 14 ports, and quickly ratify the new labor agreement. 

“If the tentative agreement holds, the new labor contract will bring much-needed certainty and predictability to the supply chain for retailers, manufacturers, farmers and other industries that rely on the ports to move the nation’s commerce and trade. The new port labor contract, which covers container operations at each of the 14 East and Gulf Coast ports, from Maine to Texas, will help make these major ports more competitive and efficient."