IN THE NORMAL COURSE of contract bargaining between labor and management, a union's negotiators may feel it is to their advantage to haggle over this or that clause and delay a tentative agreement until the eleventh hour. Whatever effect that has on management's nerves, it protects the union representatives
from grumbling among the membership along such lines as: "If you'd stayed with it a little longer, we might have gotten a better deal."
No such thinking, on either side, should interfere with the earliest settlement of the remaining issues between shipping associations and the International Longshoremen's Association in the Maine-to-Virginia range of North Atlantic ports. Unnecessary delay can only hurt all concerned, stretching out uncertainty among shippers and ocean carriers, discouraging traffic through the ports where firm agreements have not been reached, fostering diversion of cargo. No contract provision can do as much for longshoremen's jobs as the kind of industry confidence that keeps cargo flowing and ships moving.Importers and exporters, the owners of the cargo on which every waterfront work force depends, were kept in a state of nervous uncertainty as the expiration of the old contract on Oct. 1. The three-day strike that followed did nothing to buttress shipper confidence. Now, with a 45-day extension of the old contract in effect, a new deadline - Nov. 17 - is on the horizon. Union and management alike are working to wrap up contract agreements in North Atlantic ports in time for ILA ratification votes on Nov. 12. Nothing should be allowed to interfere with meeting those deadlines.