Possibly responding to a plea from the congressional delegation in Oregon and Washington to avoid a strike or lockout, grain terminal operators and longshoremen early Saturday indicated that grain would keep moving when the current contract extension expires at 5 p.m.
The Pacific Northwest Grain Handlers Association issued a statement saying that its six member companies were awaiting a response from the union to the final contract offer the employers made on Nov. 16. That offer was set to expire at 5 p.m. Saturday.
“We plan to remain in full operation and have no present plans for a lockout,” the grain handlers stated.
The International Longshore and Warehouse Union stated that it has picked several dates later this month to resume talks with employers. “Longshore men and women intend to keep moving grain. The talks are not at impasse,” the union said.
On Friday, 12 members of the U.S. House of Representatives and the Senate wrote a letter to the grain handlers association and the ILWU calling for further contract negotiations that would result in a fair contract for both parties.
The congressional representatives said an interruption in grain exports would have a “devastating” effect on the economy. Pacific Northwest terminals handle approximately 25 percent of all U.S. grain exports.
The ILWU contract with six terminal operators expired on Sept. 30.
The employers stated previously that their proposed offer would give the six terminals parity with a contract that was signed earlier this year by the ILWU and the newly opened EGT grain export terminal in Longview, Wash. The employers said their offer would expire at 5 p.m. Saturday.
The ILWU has stated that the grain companies have operated profitably under the previous contract, and the previous contract helped to preserve the safety of workers in a dangerous profession.
Rumors in recent weeks indicated the employers were considering a lockout. The ILWU has stated from the beginning it has no intention of striking.