Produce importers are reacting favorably to the longshoremen union’s approval of their newest contract that keeps product unloading at ports in the East.

Strike aversion keeps produce imports movingOn April 9, members of the International Longshoremen’s Association at Atlantic and Gulf ports overwhelming approved a new Master Contract with the United States Maritime Alliance, an alliance representing container carriers and ports.

On April 17, USMX Members voted to ratify the six-year contract, according to the longshoremen’s association.

The vote averts a possible strike and ends more than a year of negotiations between the employers and the union workers.

Strike aversion keeps produce imports movingThough most of Pompano Beach, Fla.-based Fresh Quest Produce Inc.’s break-bulk shipments are shipped in chartered vessels that don’t use longshoremen workers, Alan Guttmann, Fresh Quest’s president, said aversion of a possible strike was good news for importers.

Guttmann said an eight-day strike at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, Calif., in late November and early December disrupted movement.

He said a significant number of Fresh Quest containers remained stalled at the Los Angeles port, forcing the ship to be diverted to Mexico, causing more delays.

Guttmann said the industry was relieved the East and Gulf coast longshoremen didn’t strike.

“Those kinds of circumstance are a huge problem,” Guttmann said. “If things hadn’t gone well, I don’t think we would have felt as much of a pinch as maybe others.”

Guttmann said Fresh Quest contracts its port labor through a stevedoring company.

Negotiations continued after the original Sept. 30 contract deadline.

In a news release, the union states how workers won “handsome” salary gains and job protection benefits.

Under the contract, which was being ratified by different ports, experienced workers now earn $35 an hour with new workers able to earn $20 an hour.

Votes in Baltimore, Philadelphia and Virginia were expected to occur in mid-April.