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Strike averted at Los Angeles and Long Beach ports

LOS ANGELES (AP) _ Shipping line operators and clerical workers have reached a tentative agreement on a new contract, averting a strike that could have shut down the nation's largest port complex.

Negotiators for 14 shipping lines and the 750-member office clerical unit of Local 63 of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union reached the agreement late Friday night, officials said.

The deal gives clerical workers at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach a no-layoff clause and a pay raise that increases starting wages from $33 to $37.50 an hour over three years. It also improves their retirement plans.

In exchange, the shipping lines can update their systems with new technology so customers have more efficient access to information needed to move products. New positions created by the technology would be unionized.

The union's members will vote on the proposal Thursday.

The deal came after talks broke down last week over job security issues and the clerical workers threatened to strike. That would have shut down the busy Los Angeles and Long Beach ports because 4,000 longshoremen who work the docks would have honored their picket lines.

The clerical workers oversee shipping line paperwork dealing with customers and the government.
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