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Shipping Suspended At West Coast Ports Due To Ongoing Labor Dispute

SAN FRANCISCO (KCBS) -- Some port operations on the West Coast--including at the Port of Oakland--will be temporarily suspended this weekend because of the on-going labor dispute between port operators and union workers.

The Pacific Maritime Association said in email statement that they will stop loading and unloading ships because of what they call ongoing union slowdowns.

"After three months of union slowdowns, it makes no sense to pay extra for less work," said PMA spokesman Wade Gates, "especially if there is no end in sight to the union's actions which needlessly brought West Coast ports to the brink of gridlock."

Vessel operations are scheduled to resume Monday. Yard, rail and gate operations may continue at the terminal operator's discretion.

Craig Merilees, a spokesman for the International Longshore and Warehouse Union told KCBS that he is surprised by the shutdown. Earlier this week it appeared the two sides were close and an agreement would be reached.

He called Friday's announcement "reprehensible" and the shutdown will affect just dock workers, but also the companies--many of which are foreign--that have containers sitting on cargo ships.

"We're a 100 percent committed to the negotiating process and our number one goal is reaching an agreement as soon a possible so that will continue even though the employers make these crazy kinds of moves to shut down the port and try and hurt people in the process," Meriless said.

The PMA, which operates ports in Long Beach, Los Angeles, Oakland and Washington and the ILWU have been negotiating a new contract since last spring.

Issues on the table include wages, pensions, jurisdiction and work rules.

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