| LOS ANGELES, July 1
LOS ANGELES, July 1 The contract covering
25,000 longshore workers at 29 West Coast ports expired on
Tuesday but labor negotiations continued past the deadline and
work at the docks went on without interruption.
A six-year contract covering dockworkers up and down the
West Coast expired at 5 p.m. (0000 GMT) on Tuesday but
representatives for employers and for the International
Longshore and Warehouse Union agreed to remain at the
"We have a commitment from both sides to keep talking into
the evening and into the night here," union spokesman Craig
Merrilees said shortly after the deadline passed.
Merrilees did not expect that the negotiators would hammer
out an agreement on Tuesday evening but said it was possible
sometime in the next few days or weeks.
In the meantime, workers at the West Coast ports, which
handle more than 12 million cargo containers per year
accounting for some 11 percent of the U.S. gross domestic
product, were expected to keep working.
Merrilees said they would remain on the job largely under
the terms of the expired contract.
Both sides have described the bargaining sessions as
productive and have said they did not expect a showdown like
the one that culminated in a 10-day lockout in 2002.
Though neither side has discussed the negotiations in
detail, a spokesman for the Pacific Maritime Association, which
represents employers, has said that a tentative agreement had
already been reached on health-care issues, typically a major
The PMA spokesman, Steve Getzug, has said employers were
keen to make sure that technology at the 29 West Coast ports
remained up-to-date and competitive, where Merrilees stressed
that dockworkers were concerned about safety issues.
Contract talks broke down in 2002 largely over health care
and technology issues, triggering the 10-day lockout that
soaked the United States for an estimated $15 billion in
(Editing by Gary Hill)