Posted: Dec 24, 2012 6:46 PM
Updated: Dec 24, 2012 6:48 PM
WASHINGTON, D.C. (AP) Federal mediators seeking to avoid a walkout of thousands of dockworkers from Massachusetts to Texas have called a meeting of them and shipping companies.
The Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service says Director George Cohen called the meeting of the International Longshoremen's Association and the U.S. Maritime Alliance before the Dec. 29 expiration of the dockworkers' contract extension. It said Monday the parties have agreed to attend.
Talks broke down last week. The key sticking point is container royalties, payments to union workers based on cargo weight. Port operators represented by the Marine Alliance want to cap the royalties at last year's levels. Dockworkers say the payments aren't bonuses.
A critical West Coast port complex was crippled recently by a few hundred striking workers. Retailers fear another strike could have catastrophic effects and have asked President Barack Obama to intervene.