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West Coast Port Shut Down Could Happen Soon, But Union Believes Labor Deal Is Close

OAKLAND (CBS SF) -- As talks continue, employers said they could shut down ports up and down the West Coast, including in Oakland, as early as next week if dockworkers and their employers do not reach a new contract.

That warning comes from the head of the Pacific Maritime Association.  Negotiations continue between a union representing longshoremen at 29 ports that handle about $1 trillion in trade annually.

Pacific Maritime Association CEO James McKenna said he wanted to avoid a coast-wide port shutdown, but congestion at ports is growing, leading to more  and more gridlock.

"Now, the PMA must decide how much longer we are going to pay longshore workers to work slowly.  These slowdowns are having the same result as a worker's strike, except that workers are still getting a paycheck," McKenna said.  The PMA is accusing longshoremen of staging slowdowns and not moving cargo at a normal rate.

Craig Marilees, spokesman for the International Longshoremen and Warehouse Union, told KCBS that he is more optimistic.

"The good news is that progress is being made and that they're getting close and if they just stick to it and knuckle down, they can have an agreement before long," he said.

The issues on the table include wages, pensions, jurisdiction and work rules. Meanwhile, cargo has backed up at Long Beach, Oakland and Washington as the union and shippers negotiate.

TM and © Copyright 2015 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2015 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Bay City News Service contributed to this report.

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