February 4, 2013 1:30 PM, EST
Ports Reach Tentative Deal to Avoid Strike
Paul Taggart/Bloomberg News

Port operators have reached a tentative deal on a new contract with the longshoremen’s union, averting a possible strike that would have crippled operations at 15 East Coast and Gulf Coast ports, the Associated Press reported.

The deal was announced late Friday in a statement from federal mediator George Cohen, director of the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service, AP reported.

Cohen, who has been leading the talks since last year, said the agreement was subject to ratification by both parties and to additional local union negotiations, AP reported.

But he said that local talks would continue without the threat of interrupting port operations, while declining to offer any details on the deal, AP said.

The National Retail Federation praised the tentative pact and urged “the parties to quickly complete any outstanding negotiations, including local negotiations at each of the ports, and quickly ratify the new labor agreement.”

The new contract “will bring much-needed certainty and predictability to the supply chain for retailers, manufacturers, farmers and other industries that rely on the ports to move the nation’s commerce and trade,” NRF said in a statement released Saturday.

Both the union and the port operators have been in intense negotiations since the previous contract ended in September, and the International Longshoremen’s Association and port operators agreed in late December to extend contract negotiations into early February.

Cohen and the mediation service helped end an eight-day strike at the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, Calif., late last year.