MANATEE -- Port Manatee officials don't expect the port to be negatively affected by a possible coast-wide port strike if an agreement between the International Longshoremen's Association and U.S. Maritime Alliance is not reached in the next few weeks.
The consequences of failure to reach an agreement could result in a strike or lockout of 15 container ports, including Tampa, and billions of dollars in lost revenue. The contract between the ILA and Maritime Alliance is set to expire Dec. 29.
"We've been assuming we won't be impacted," said Steve Tyndal, senior director of trade development and special projects for Port Manatee.
Tyndal said the ILA, the largest union of maritime workers in North America, is targeting payment to union dockworkers handling containerized cargo, but perishable and cruise lines are exempt from the agreement. The ILA is looking to prevent a wage supplement cap and negotiations have been ongoing since March.
"The union that works here work on shipments containing perishable commodities," Tyndal said.
Tyndal said the workers are not Port Authority employees, but are employed by a company working at Port Manatee.
In a letter sent to President Barack Obama Monday, the National Retail Federation expressed concern over a coast-wide strike. The letter states that if an agreement is not reached, operations would cease at the 15 ports, four of which are in Florida.
"Allowing a strike to occur for even one day could have a negative impact on all of those downstream businesses and employees who rely on the ports," said Matthew Shay, president of the NRF. "The U.S. economy cannot afford to wait for a strike to occur before we see administration action, We urge you to get engaged now with these parties and ensure a strike does not occur."
With four of Florida's ports closed, it could equate to increased shipments to Manatee.
"We really haven't considered it from that perspective," Tyndal said. "It's possible."
In 2002, a 10-day lockout on West Coast ports cost the economy $1 billion per day and took more than six months to recover, the letter states. To end the lockout, President George W. Bush enacted the Taft-Hartley Act, which forced negotiations between both parties.
Tyndal said President Obama may have to do the same.
"If there's a strike, the Taft-Hartley Act can be implemented," he said. "It's likely that will be a similar outcome."
Nick Williams, Herald reporter, can be reached at 941-748-0411 ext. 7049. Twitter:@_1NickWilliams