A longshoremen's strike at Long Beach and Los Angeles harbors was averted this week when ship owners and terminal operators agreed to strengthen safety measures on the docks.
The agreement came after weekend negotiations that followed a one-day walkout last Thursday by the 2,700-member Local 13 of the International Longshoremen's and Warehousemen's Union.
The union was protesting working conditions it felt were responsible for the deaths of at least five dock workers during the last nine months, said David Arian, president of Local 13.
Arian said there has been a safety problem in the harbors because shipping companies and terminal operators have pushed for greater productivity in cargo handling.
The companies have argued that many dock workers have refused to wear hard hats and safety harnesses or to abide by other safety rules. Arian said none of the deaths resulted from such problems.
In accordance with the new agreement, union safety teams began patrolling the docks Monday. They will be disbanded in 60 days, however, unless the union is able to get employers to agree to hire a number of permanent safety officers, said Arian.