LOS ANGELES — Labor contract negotiations impacting some 20,000 West Coast port workers continue to drag on.

This story first appeared in the December 30, 2014 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

The International Longshore and Warehouse Union on Monday accused the Pacific Maritime Association of stalling the now seven-month-long talks by not including key decision-makers in negotiations.

Workers have been without a labor contract since July.

“Indirect negotiations won’t get us over the finish line. The few issues that remain unresolved relate directly to the carriers, and these key carriers need to come to the table,” said Robert McEllrath, ILWU president and chairman of the negotiating committee.

The PMA, which represents 72 cargo carriers and terminal operating companies, said in a response that “significant issues remain unresolved, including wages, pensions, jurisdiction and work rules.” The association reiterated its call for federal mediation.

The PMA last week said it asked the U.S. Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service to step in. Also last week, more than 160 national, state and local trade groups appealed in a letter to President Obama and his administration to intervene in the matter.

The National Retail Federation and the National Association of Manufacturers estimated in a report, released in June, that a full shutdown of the ports over a five-day period would cost roughly $2 billion a day. That figure would increase over a longer time period.

The ports have continued to operate throughout the contract negotiations, although traffic congestion and delays have affected imports and exports. Retailers including Ann Taylor, Ascena Retail Group, New York & Co. and Lululemon during recent earnings calls have mentioned the impact of the contract dispute as being, in some cases, in the millions of dollars. Even McDonald’s was impacted when it temporarily had to suspend sales of its regular-sized fries in Japan due to delays in getting potatoes shipped from the U.S. The problem has now been resolved.

NRF members remain concerned about the ongoing issues at the ports, which are now delaying deliveries of early spring merchandise to stores, according to Jonathan Gold, the NRF’s vice president of supply chain and Customs policy.

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