Key US ports back to work after strike ends

Two key US ports reopened Wednesday after negotiators brokered a deal to end an eight-day strike which crippled a key trade gateway with Asia.

Thousands of dock workers were back at their jobs after the agreement struck late Tuesday, between employers at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach and striking clerical workers.

LA mayor Antonio Villaraigosa announced the deal, offering a six-year contract to 800 members of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU), and workers were expected to ratify it during the day.

During the strike some 20 ships bound for LA or Long Beach docked at other ports, officials said.

By Wednesday midday all eight cargo terminals at the LA port and six at Long Beach, just to the south, were again operational. Some 10,000 ILWU members honored the picket call, shutting down 10 of the 14 terminals at the complex.

The National Retail Federation, which had urged President Barack Obama to intervene, hailed the agreement. NRF boss Matthew Shay said he hoped the retail industry would "be able to quickly recover from the shutdown."

The striking workers said they had been without contracts since June 2010, and argued over whether or not the employers could outsource the jobs of union workers who retired or left for other employment.

The action at the key US transport gateway, which handles 40 percent of US maritime cargo, mainly from Asia, and constitutes the world's seventh-biggest commercial harbor, cost billions of dollars to the local and wider US economy.

Union officials said they had succeeded in winning new protections to prevent jobs from being outsourced.

"This was a community effort that will benefit working families for many years to come," said John Fageaux, president of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) Local 63-OCU.

Stephen Berry, chief negotiator for the Harbor Employers Association, said: "Both sides had principles that are very important to them.

"The employers have struggled since the global economic crisis in 2008. Cargo volumes have dropped and they've not returned to those levels."

--

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