SAN FRANCISCO – Representatives of the longshore union and port operators reached a tentative five-year contract that could end a labor standoff at West Coast ports.

The contract covers workers at all 29 ports and is subject to a vote by the Pacific Maritime Association (PMA) and the International Longshoreman and Warehouse Union (ILWU). US Secretary of Labor Tom Perez and Scot Beckenbaugh, Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service deputy director helped broker the deal that could end a nine-month contract dispute between the ILWU and PMA.

In a joint statement said James McKenna , PMA president and Bob McEllrath, ILWU said: “After more than nine months of negotiations, we are pleased to have reached an agreement that is good for workers and for the industry. We are also pleased that our ports can now resume full operations.”

The US Meat Export Federation (USMEF) expressed relief that a tentative agreement had been reached. USMEF said the United States' global customer base was at risk because of uncertainty and delays caused by the contract dispute.

“With nearly 80 percent or our waterborne red meat exports utilizing West Coast ports, this situation had become very damaging not only for exporters, but also for farmers, ranchers, processors and everyone in the supply chain,” said Philip Seng, president and CEO of USMEF.

“We are hopeful that the parties will ratify the new contract agreement as soon as possible and clear the backlog that currently exists in several major ports, so that US industries can once again serve our international customers with the confidence and reliability they deserve.”

The North American Meat Institute (NAMI) also applauded the agreement, but noted that recovery from shipping backlogs could take months. NAMI said slowdowns have cost the meat, poultry, hide, skin and leather industries an estimated $85 million per week. It will take an estimated 30 to 45 days to clear the backlog of containers at West Coast ports.

“The meat and poultry, hide, skin and leather industries have been feeling the pain of this dispute for far too long,” said Barry Carpenter, NAMI president and CEO. “It is time to put this crisis behind us and reopen the lines of trade with our partners around the world.”