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L.A., Long Beach Port Strike

strike-picThe strike by clerical workers concerned about lost jobs has brought activity at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach to a halt.

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LONG BEACH, Calif. — The eight-day strike that crippled the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach and prevented shippers from delivering billions of dollars in cargo is over.

LONG BEACH, Calif. — The eight-day strike that crippled the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach and prevented shippers from delivering billions of dollars in cargo is over.

LONG BEACH, Calif. — The eight-day strike port-strike-bgthat crippled the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach and prevented shippers from delivering billions of dollars in cargo is over.

Striking clerical workers and the longshore workers who refused to cross their picket lines were back on the job on Wednesday.

The strike had pitted the 800-member International Longshore Workers Union Local 63 Office Clerical Unit against some of the world’s biggest shipping lines and terminal operators.

Until it launched the strike last Tuesday, the union had been working without a contract since June 30, 2010.

Late Tuesday night, the union and the shipping companies reached a tentative agreement.

The deal will not become final until it is ratified by the full union membership.

The main issue was the union’s claim that terminal operators wanted to outsource future clerical jobs out of state and overseas — something the shippers denied.

Since the strike began, 20 ships diverted to rival ports in Oakland, Ensenada and Panama, while other freighters docked offshore waiting for a resolution.

The deal came after Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa called in two federal mediators Tuesday morning to try and break the impasse.

That pushed the unions into a quicker deal, fearing a loss of influence and negotiating power once the mediators took over.

“Mission accomplished,” Villaraigosa said in announcing the deal. “This has been a long eight days, but it’s a great day for everybody now that a deal has been reached.”

Though the clerical workers’ union is small, it was backed by the 10,000 regional members of the ILWU, which honored the picket line and refused to work.

By the end, the strike shut down 10 of the 14 cargo container terminals at the nation’s busiest seaport complex.

The port employers had been pushing for mediation since last week. Clerical workers agreed only after Villaraigosa intervened.

Both union and harbor employers spent most of Tuesday huddled inside a community center in Wilmington.

The mediators joined Villaraigosa there at about 8:30 p.m. as negotiators for the union were voting behind closed doors.

“Tonight is the end of a very long journey,” said Steve Berry, lead negotiator for the Los Angeles and Long Beach Harbor Employers Assn.

Berry said there will be “no outsourcing under this contract.”Berry also said the package included unspecified wage and pension increases.

He also said there was added job security to the deal, that included a “no layoff” clause that would go into effect once ratified.

The contract will last for six years, and is retroactive to June 30, 2010. It will be set to expire on June 30, 2016.

Few other details of the agreement were revealed by either side or the mayor. However, during the last few days, salary has been one major bargaining point.

The clerical workers, among the highest-paid in the country, are responsible for booking cargo, filing customs documentation, and monitoring and tracking cargo movements.

According to union officials and the Harbor Employers Assn., the average hourly rate for clerical workers is $40.50 an hour — which amounts to about $84,000 a year.

In comparison, the median annual wage for cargo and freight agents was $37,150 in May 2010, according to the most recent data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

As talks dragged on, employers offered to raise the union workers’ total compensation package.

The employers had said total compensation currently averages $165,000, but that amount includes healthcare, pension contributions, time off and other benefits in addition to salary.

One of the latest proposals made just before Tuesday’s vote would have raised that average to $195,000 and include a $1-an-hour increase in pay each year for the next two years.

The union, however, pushed for a contract that would prevent employers from outsourcing jobs in the future, said Craig Merrilees, a spokesman for the clerical workers’ union.

Both sides in the ongoing strike at the ports of L.A. and Long Beach have agreed to federal mediation, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa said Tuesday.

Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa is now taking an active role in negotiations to end the strike involving clerical workers at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach.

International Longshore and Warehouse Union President John Fageaux said Tuesday morning that the two sides are closer than ever before to an agreement.

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