LOS ANGELES -- A threatened lockout at the nation's busiest port complex was apparently averted after dock operations were fully staffed at the end of a week in which most activity had been frozen.
Representatives of employers at West Coast ports said they would shut down cargo terminals Friday, leaving as many as 5,000 workers without pay and millions of dollars of cargo on the docks because of what management called a union slowdown.
The Pacific Maritime Association, which has been negotiating a new contract with dockworkers since May, said Thursday the slowdown had crippled operations of one of its members -- Stevedoring Services of America -- at the Port of Long Beach.
But Thursday night, the International Longshore and Warehouse Union provided enough workers to unload ships at the docks in Long Beach, the PMA said.
"After a week of withholding labor, the union dispatched workers as PMA requested," Pacific Maritime Association President and Chief Executive Joe Miniace said. "This is a positive sign, and I am hopeful this signals that the ILWU and PMA will be able to work together toward a new coastwide contract."
The PMA, which represents 87 shipping companies and terminal operators, said it would suspend its planned shutdown of the Los Angeles and Long Beach port complex as long as operations continue at normal levels.
The association had accused the union of withholding labor from Stevedoring Services' terminal since Monday, leaving thousands of containers unloaded and causing a traffic jam of trucks outside the complex.
West Coast ports from San Diego to Seattle handle more than $300 billion worth of goods a year. Cargo ranges widely from automotive parts and toys to food and clothing.
The ILWU, which represents the 10,500 full-time West Coast dockworkers, denied Thursday it had engaged in any slowdown.
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