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New Orleans dock strike highlights employment law issues

Issues related to employment law can create problems for companies of all sizes. Smaller business may run into issues with a particular employee contract or certain regulations; larger employers may run into disputes with unions related to compensation or workplace rules. Further, these employment contract disputes can end up with potentially difficult bargains, loss of work and money.

A recent labor dispute concerning 14,000 longshoremen working at 15 ports including the port of New Orleans dockworkers, has raised similar concerns and illustrates some of the potential employment law issues faced by employers. The dispute arose due to the U.S. Maritime Alliance's proposal to freeze the royalties earned by dockworkers for each container unloaded. The Maritime Alliance, a group representing shipping lines, terminal operators and port associations, argues that freezing royalties is justified as longshoremen are already well compensated, often making over $100,000 each per year. The expected strike has, however, been averted for 30 more days pending ongoing negotiations.

The 15 ports involved in the dispute handle 100 million tons of goods each year, constituting 40 percent of the country's containerized cargo traffic. Thus, a strike may cause substantial financial damage and may affect the economy at large. It is this type of impact that many companies seek to avoid with appropriate planning.

Disputes like these can be difficult for companies. Employers and organizations must be prudent, quick and careful when dealing with these issues to avoid losing ground. In some cases, working with legal counsel can help companies implement policies, enforce contracts and address regulations proactively to avoid disputes and litigation down the road. Awareness of realities, legal complexities and social set-ups is a must when dealing with employment law issues.

Source: wwltv.com, "Dock strike impacting Port of New Orleans averted," Dec. 28, 2012

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