Staff at New United Motor Manufacturing (NUMMI), the GM-Toyota joint venture plant in Fresno, California, will no doubt be closely following talks resuming today intended to resolve a dock strike that has shut down their Toyota Corolla and Pontiac Vibe assembly lines.

According to Reuters, officials from the Pacific Maritime Association, which represents 29 ports from San Diego to Seattle, and the International Longshore and Warehouse Union held 12 hours of talks Thursday but adjourned without agreement.

Both sides said they were ready to get back to the bargaining table on Friday in talks brokered by the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service that focused on the issue of how new technology will be introduced at West Coast docks, Reuters said.

The ports were shut on Sunday and dockside workers locked out after management claimed they were deliberately working slowly.

Among other things, the workers are concerned that plans to make the ports more efficient with new technology such as computerised cargo-handling machinery will cost many their jobs, some of which reportedly pay up to $US120,000 and are much sought-after.

With the strike said to be costing upwards of $US1 billion a day, federal government mediators have been roped in and there have been calls for President George Bush to invoke a special 80-day strike-breaking “cooling off” measure. But reports say “Dubya”, who won’t comment on the option in his power, is reluctant to do this for fear of alienating union members and labour leaders on whom he depends for political support.

Reuter said NUMMI shut down its production lines on Wednesday and Thursday amid a severe shortage of imported parts while the Association of American Railroads halted cargo shipments bound for the 29 West Coast ports on Tuesday.

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