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Port contract dispute requires the help of a federal mediator

For months now, the movement of goods out of one of the busiest ports in the country has at times trickled to a crawl or even stopped. The cause is a contract dispute between the dockworkers union and its employers. As any Georgia business owner knows, these types of contract disputes can cost the business involved, and possibly others, a significant amount of money.

The employment contract of approximately 20,000 dockworkers expired in July. Negotiations between the union and employers failed to result in a contract. As November rolled around, talks became downright adversarial. It was suggested at some point that the parties agree to allow a federal mediator to step in to help the parties make progress in their talks.

Only recently did both sides agree to bring in a federal mediator. Several issues remain unresolved. The dispute centers on wages, work rules and which jobs union members perform. In Aug. 2014, the parties reached a conditional agreement regarding health insurance.

West Coast Ports in Long Beach and Los Angeles, California, reportedly handle nearly 40 percent of all of the goods imported into the United States. Each side has made accusations about the other slowing down operations in order to get the other to give in to demands. The longer the disagreements persist, the worse the situation gets. However, agreeing to mediation appears to be a step in the right direction.

A contract dispute with employees can wreak havoc on a Georgia business. That does not mean that an employer needs to give in to demands, but keeping in mind the bottom line and what is best for the business could mean considering a compromise. Once an agreement is reached, it can be memorialized on paper and executed, so that everyone can get back to business.

Source: Los Angeles Times, "Federal mediator to help resolve West Coast port contract dispute", Andrew Khouri, Jan. 6, 2015

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