February 3 - The US Maritime Alliance and the International Longshoremen's Association and have reached a tentative agreement for a new six-year master contract.

Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service Director George H. Cohen issued a statement yesterday on the labour negotiations between the two sides in which he said: "I am extremely pleased to announce that the parties have reached a tentative agreement for a comprehensive successor Master Agreement. The tentative agreement is subject to the ratification procedures of both parties and, as well, to agreements being achieved in a number of local union negotiations.

"Those local negotiations are ongoing and will continue without interruption to any port operation. Out of respect for the parties' ratification processes, and consistent with the Agency's long-standing confidentiality policy, we will not disclose any details concerning the substantive provisions that have been reached.

"However, as the negotiations have been conducted under the auspices of the FMCS, commencing last September and continuing to date, I can report that the tentative agreement reflects the culmination of good faith negotiations in which the parties successfully accommodated strongly held competing positions because of their commitment to problem solving. Again, collective bargaining has proven its worth by avoiding a potential work stoppage that would have had a severe negative impact on the nation's economy.

"On behalf of the FMCS, I want to especially convey my thanks to ILA president Harold Daggett and USMX chairman and CEO James Capo for their leadership, patience, and persistence and to their respective hard-working negotiating committees. Finally, my colleagues deputy director Scot Beckenbaugh, director of Mediation Services Jack Sweeney, and commissioner Pete Donatello provided invaluable assistance both to me and the parties throughout this lengthy process."

The current contract between the ILA and its employers represented by USMX was originally due to expire on September 30, last year, but was twice extended, first to late December 2012, and then to next Wednesday, February 6.