Governor warns that port work stoppages would hurt state

skennedy@bradenton.comDecember 28, 2012 

MANATEE -- Gov. Rick Scott today warned that the livelihood of thousands of Florida families could hang in the balance if negotiators fail to win an extension of a longshoremen's association contract set to expire Saturday.

But Port Manatee Director Carlos Buqueras said that Manatee County likely would not be affected, should there be a work stoppage, since it does not yet handle containerized cargo -- a primary sticking point in contract talks.

The governor said Florida's largest ports could be shut down, affecting hundreds of thousands of jobs connected to the transportation, manufacturing and other sectors of the state's economy.

The deadline is quickly approaching, the governor said, adding that the state "cannot afford the devastation" that a strike would cause.

Among the conference call participants were port directors from across Florida, including Buqueras.

Port Manatee likely would not be affected by a work stoppage because the longshoremen's association has exempted non-containerized cargo from any work stoppage, Buqueras said.

Negotiations are continuing between the International Longshoremen's Association and the U.S. Maritime Alliance, officials said.

"The only company at the port with ILA laborers is Del Monte, and they informed us they do not expect any work disruption at all because they fall within the exclusion" outlined by union negotiators, said Buqueras. "Fruit coming into Manatee at this point is not containerized."

Scott said he sent a letter to President Obama last week asking him to invoke the Taft-Hartley Act to prevent a possible work stoppage if no agreement is reached before the contract expires Saturday.

In answer to a question during the conference call, the governor said, "Unfortunately, I've not had a response from the President yet; I'm very optimistic the President will act."

Sara Kennedy, Herald reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7031. Follow her on Twitter

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