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Labour Disruption At West Coast Ports, Retailers Worried as Economy On Stake

Canada’s biggest port was slowed to a crawl when truck drivers went on strike for 28 days in March and union spokesman Gavin McGarrigle said they are now having difficulties getting trucking companies to comply with measures in the resolution.

However it’s not just the Canadian ports facing the heat. A new study from the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) and National Retail Federation (NRF) in the US by economists at the Interindustry Forecasting Project at the University of Maryland brought under the spotlight the economic harm that could result from a labour disruption at US ports.

The west coast ports are America’s gateway for hundreds of billions of dollars of trade with Asia and beyond and are also under the influence of labor unrest and even violence.

As negotiations continue for a new contract agreement covering 13,600 dockworkers at 30 ports stretching from San Diego, Calif., to Bellingham, Wash., the study shows the U.S. economy could lose as much as $2.5 billion a day if a prolonged West Coast port shutdown occurs.

The current labor contract between the International Longshore and Warehouse Association Union (ILWU) and port operators along the U.S. West Coast is set to expire on June 30, 2014.

“A protracted dispute between the negotiating parties could lead to reduced or shuttered terminal operations for an extended period,” the study warned. “If such disruptions occur, the economic impact would be significant and widespread.”

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Billions at risk as West Coast port contract ends

Associated Press

The West Coast ports that are America's gateway for hundreds of billions of dollars of trade with Asia and beyond are no stranger to labor unrest and even violence.

Now, the contract that covers nearly 20,000 dockworkers is set to expire, and businesses that trade in everything from apples to iPhones are worried about disruptions just as the crush of cargo for the back-to-school and holiday seasons begins.

With contentious issues including benefits and job security on the table, smooth sailing is no guarantee.

On one side is the International Longshore and Warehouse Union, with its tradition of fierce activism dating to the Great Depression, when two of its members were killed during a strike. On the other is the Pacific Maritime Association, which represents shipping lines and operators of terminals at 29 West Coast ports.

Both acknowledge that they are unlikely to agree on a new contract before the current one expires June 30, but they plan to negotiate past that deadline. That would fit the pattern from contract talks in 2008 and 2002. In 2002, negotiators didn't reach an agreement until around Thanksgiving, following an impasse that led to a 10-day lockout and a big disruption in trade.

The union's total control over the labor pool means huge bargaining leverage, which negotiators have parlayed into white-collar wages and perks for blue-collar work. A full-time longshoreman earns about $130,000 a year, while foremen earn about $210,000, according to employer data. Workers pay nearly nothing for health coverage that includes no premiums and $1 prescriptions.

Neither side has publicly discussed progress on negotiations that began May 12 in San Francisco, which is headquarters to the union and the maritime association.

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U.S. expats find their money is no longer welcome at the bank

By Geoff Williams

(Reuters) - Imagine being excluded from the financial services industry because of your passport.

That happened to Carrie Walczak, an American living in Germany, in May. She received a letter from Deutsche Bank [DBKGSG.UL] informing her that her bank account was going to be closed because she is an American.

Walczak, a 37-year-old from upstate New York, lived in Brussels for seven years with her Belgian husband before moving to Bad Homburg, Germany, where she has resided for the past 18 months. Walczak says the letter informed her of new tax regulations required by the U.S. government, and because of that she is being dropped as a customer.

She says that a second bank account, from a financial institution based in Brussels, remains open -- but only because she signed two documents allowing the bank to disclose all of her banking information to the IRS. She has a third bank, based in Germany, which hasn't sent any letters to her.

"So that seems safe for now," Walczak says, admitting that she is rattled. "The problem is that to get paid and to have a normal life, one does need a bank account. If eventually other or all banks follow Deutsche Bank's lead, it could make my life very difficult."

Not to mention for all American expats, who number between 5 million and 6 million. In 2010, the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA) became law in the United States, making it harder for American taxpayers to hide assets. 

Foreign banks and other financial institutions are required to give information to the Internal Revenue Service about Americans' accounts worth more than $50,000. There is a slight reprieve - in 2014 and 2015 the law is in a "transitional period," with the IRS not taking punitive measures if a bank appears to be making a good-faith effort to comply.

Many of the account-closing complaints are coming from Americans living in Switzerland, according to David McKeegan, co-founder of Greenback Expat Tax Services, headquartered in Hong Kong.

That is due to Switzerland's banking troubles in recent years. In 2009, UBS paid a $780 million fine to the IRS for helping American taxpayers hide money abroad. In May, Credit Suisse was fined $1.2 billion for similar charges.

More from msn.com

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Dockworker strike in Brazil postponed

| Jun 10, 2014 11:17AM EDT

A nationwide dockworker strike planned to begin today in Brazil has been postponed, according to maritime service provider Inchcape Shipping Services.

Inchcape’s local Brazil office received notification from the Union of Shipping Companies that the stevedores’ strike, organized by the Union of Stevedores, has been postponed until June 27 at 10 a.m. local time, after the federal government agreed to discuss the workers’ list of demands.

The strike is expected to affect stevedore operations in all ports across Brazil for an indefinite period and is predicted to cause considerable delays with cargo operations unless a resolution can be reached with the Brazilian government, ISS said.

A source previously speculated that the stevedores would begin striking on June 10 to take advantage of the opportunity to attract worldwide attention, as the FIFA World Cup is set to begin two days later on June 12. With the strike now potentially set to begin June 27, the workers may still attract worldwide attention, as the games are scheduled to conclude on July 13. The source said the strike is likely not directly associated with the ongoing public demonstrations against the World Cup, but rather associated with general labor issues in Brazil.

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Dockworkers plan June 10 start to strike in Brazil

| Jun 06, 2014 1:55PM EDT        

A nationwide dockworker strike is planned to begin on June 10 in Brazil, according to maritime services provider Inchcape Shipping Services.

The strike, organized by the Union of Stevedores, is expected to affect stevedore operations in all ports across Brazil for an indefinite period and is predicted to cause considerable delays with cargo operations unless an early resolution can be reached with the Brazilian government, ISS said.

A source speculated that the stevedores will begin striking on June 10 to take advantage of the opportunity to attract worldwide attention, as the FIFA World Cup is set to begin two days later on June 12. The source said the strike is likely not directly associated with the ongoing public demonstrations against the World Cup, but rather associated with general labor issues in Brazil.

Read more on www.joc.com 

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