Deadline looms on ILA-US Maritime Alliance contract talks - WTOC-TV: Savannah, Beaufort, SC, News, Weather & Sports

Deadline looms to reach deal before ILA strike

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Curtis Foltz, executive director for Georgia Ports Authority Curtis Foltz, executive director for Georgia Ports Authority

The clock is ticking to reach a deal that could have huge economic impact, and it has nothing to do with the fiscal cliff.

The deadline to reach a deal to prevent a strike by the International Longshoremen's Association is just days away, and the outcome doesn't look promising. The ILA is in the middle of fierce negotiations with the U.S. Maritime Alliance, the group of container carriers and employers serving both the East and Gulf Coasts.

The issue revolves around container royalties. The ILA wants to keep the fund as-is, but USMX wants to cap how much money is put into the fund for workers, and eventually eliminate it.

If deal isn't reached by 12:01 a.m. Sunday, the results could be disastrous.

"Commerce as we know it today, all those that rely on our ports, would be significantly effected if not shut down," said Curtis Foltz, executive director of the Georgia Ports Authority.

He said he believes the strike would cripple the ports from Maine to Texas.

"Not to downplay Sandy and the effects, but I think from a port standpoint this is much broader. If there is a coastwide strike, it effectively shuts down the ports from Maine through Galveston, Texas.

The volume of manufacturers relying on those ports means the results could be devastating to the economy. Rhett Willis, president of D.J. Powers Co. Inc., told WTOC that he believes this will cause a ripple effect in Georgia and up and down the East Coast.

The last time the ILA went on strike was in 1977. It lasted three months and crippled many businesses. Willis calls it a blessing in disguise, because the ILA decided they "needed to work better with shippers and manufacturers".

Ultimately, if no deal is reached, and the strike drags on, everyone will feel the results.

"If it's long enough, obviously, this is going to cost everyone in the supply game money and at some point they're going to look to pass that on to the consumers on the import side," Foltz said.

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