LA Mayor Warns over Week-Old US Trade Hub Strike

A strike disrupting cargo through a key US trade gateway with Asia is about to enter its second week, with no progress reported in negotiations, and warnings about the economic fallout.

Los Angeles mayor Antonio Villaraigosa has called for round-the-clock bargaining to end the strike at the ports of Los Angeles and nearby Long Beach, where strike action began last Tuesday.

"This cannot continue," Villaraigosa said in a message to union leader John Fageaux Jr. and employers' chief negotiator Stephen Berry, warning that the labor dispute is "costing our local economy billions of dollars."

"The cost is too great to continue down this failed path," he wrote Sunday.

The action by clerical staff started at a terminal in Los Angeles port last Tuesday but spread to six other terminals and Long Beach on Wednesday.

The two ports average $1 billion of cargo each day, a huge proportion of it shipments to and from Pacific nations.

The strike has forced container ships to divert to other ports in California, notably Oakland up the coast near San Francisco, and Mexico.

The striking workers claim that the Harbor Employers Association wants to outsource jobs, but employers' spokesman Berry said the strike was over "demands that we hire people they don't need."

The National Retail Federation (NRF) noted that a 10-day lockout of West Coast ports in 2002 took six months to recover from and cost the economy an estimated $1 billion a day.

"An extended strike... could have a greater impact considering the fragile state of the US economy," it said last week, calling for President Barack Obama to intervene to resolve the dispute.

"The two sides must remain at the negotiating table until a deal is reached," it added.

The port in Los Angeles and the one in neighboring Long Beach constitute the seventh busiest commercial harbor in the world, handling more than 40 percent of ocean-shipped US imports from Asia.


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