Los Angeles port has been hit hard by the ongoing disruption

Los Angeles port has been hit hard by the ongoing disruption

Two industry groups have welcomed federal mediation intervention to try to help resolve the ongoing labour dispute at 29 West Coast ports ahead of the import peak for spring season clothing and shoes.

FMCS deputy director and mediator Scot Beckenbaugh was earlier this week assigned to help the parties bring the talks to a "mutually acceptable resolution" following calls from the two parties involved. 

"We are prepared and ready to render prompt assistance," said FMCS acting director Allison Beck.

Both the American Apparel & Footwear Association (AAFA) and the National Retail Federation (NRF) have welcomed the move.

"AAFA thanks the ILWU and PMA for agreeing to mediation, and urges the parties to halt congestion-causing actions in order to reach a swift resolution," said AAFA president & CEO Juanita Duggan.

"With the import peak for spring season for clothing and shoes rapidly approaching, it is crucial that President Barack Obama engage in intensive monitoring of the negotiations, and be ready to act immediately if conditions do not improve."

While NRF vice president of supply chain and customs policy, Jonathan Gold, added: "After months of heated rhetoric and increasing cargo congestion, this is the first positive news from the West Coast ports in some time."

"On behalf of the supply chain community, we sincerely hope the FMCS-supervised negotiations will progress quickly and that final agreement on a new labour contract will be reached relatively soon."

The International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) and Pacific Maritime Association (PMA) have been engaged in talks since 12 May. They are trying to reach agreement on a new labour contract for almost 20,000 dockworkers to replace the current six-year one, which expired on 30 June.

Earlier this week, the PMA said terminal congestion at West Coast ports was near "breaking point", and urged the ILWU to stop withholding yard crane drivers from their shifts. The call came less than a week after the PMA renewed calls for federal mediation in the negotiations, noting that it remains "far apart" on many issues.

Nearly 50% of the clothing and shoes sold in the US is imported through the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, and the industry is suffering from critical product deliveries as result of the labor dispute.

The slowdown in worker activity has seen productivity remain at 30% or below normal at some ports, with Los Angeles and Long Beach being hit hard.

A report published by the National Retail Federation (NRF) and the National Association of Manufacturers last year said a West Coast shutdown would cost the economy around US$2bn a day.

The FMCS said it is not releasing information regarding future meeting dates and locations, and has no further comment on the status or substance of the negotiations.

Click on the following link for further insight on the disruption at West Coast ports: US retailers to face logistics issues into 2015.