Dockworkers Extend Negotiations

Deal gives retailers no guarantee on East Coast port strike.

Retailers and manufacturers avoided the worst when dockworkers agreed Friday to continue contract talks and keep major U.S. ports open. The next five weeks will determine whether a strike can be ruled out completely.

The International Longshoremen’s Association and the U.S. Maritime Alliance, representing container carriers, struck a tentative agreement on a royalty payment for workers that had been a sticking point in negotiations, federal mediators said yesterday. The two sides will push back a deadline for reaching an overall contract from midnight tonight until Feb. 6.

‘Long-Term Cost’

Both sides have been outspoken in the past about their unyielding stances on royalty fee demands, signaling the dispute may not be fully resolved, said Ed Sands, a logistics specialist at procurement management firm Procurian in King of Prussia, Pennsylvania.

Contingency Plans

Home Depot has contingency plans in the event of a strike, Stephen Holmes, a spokesman for the Atlanta-based company, said this week by e-mail, while declining to discuss those preparations. Lowe’s, based in Mooresville, North Carolina, is monitoring the situation and will make changes to its shipping and transportation if needed, Maureen Wallace, a spokeswoman, said in an e-mail.

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