UPDATE 1-West Coast ports dispute drags on; U.S. labor secretary to intervene

Mon Feb 16, 2015 6:36pm EST
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(Adds no formal talks believed to have occurred over the weekend; National Retail Federation comment)

By Steve Gorman

LOS ANGELES Feb 16 (Reuters) - A partial shutdown of 29 U.S. West Coast ports stretched into a third day on Monday ahead of the U.S. labor secretary's scheduled arrival in San Francisco to try to broker a settlement ending months of disruptions on the cargo-clogged docks.

President Barack Obama, under pressure to weigh in on a labor dispute that has rippled through the U.S. commercial supply chain and beyond, said on Saturday he would dispatch Labor Secretary Tom Perez to meet with the two sides in the conflict.

But there was no word on timing of the trip until Monday, when a spokeswoman for the labor secretary said Perez was due to arrive in San Francisco on Tuesday to join in talks between the shipping companies and the union representing 20,000 dockworkers.

Neither the International Longshore and Warehouse Union nor the shipping companies' bargaining agent, the Pacific Maritime Association, have spoken about the negotiations since agreeing on Friday to honor a news blackout requested by a federal mediator. And no face-to-face talks between the parties are believed to have occurred since then.

The PMA previously said the talks, which have dragged on for nine months, hit a new snag over a union demand for changes in the system of binding arbitration of contract disputes. The union has insisted the two sides are near an accord.

"We hope Secretary Perez can really get the parties to work out whatever their final issues are and get a deal," said National Retail Federation executive Jonathan Gold on Fox Business News.

Inbound cargo vessels continued to stack up at anchor, with 34 freighters idled on Monday morning waiting for a berth outside the adjacent ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, the nation's two busiest cargo hubs.   Continued...