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Fri, Nov 15, 2002 - Page 12 News List

US government cautions shippers and dockworkers

AFP , LOS ANGELES

The US government Wednesday issued a stern warning to feuding dockworkers and shipping bosses that it will not allow their simmering labor row to disrupt operations in West Coast ports.

The caution came in a letter to both sides in the dispute that sparked an economically-devastating 10-day shutdown of ports on the US' Pacific Coast last month, dealing a bitter blow to Asian trade.

Assistant Attorney General Robert McCallum and other legal officials warned both sides to obey a court order instructing them to reopen ports and to work at a "reasonable" rate, or face legal action.

The injunction was issued after President George W. Bush invoked rarely-used powers to step and end the stoppage that shut Asia's main trade gateway to the crucial US market and cost America billions of dollars.

"Because of the vast importance of the West Coast ports to the nation's economic health, military readiness, and national safety ... the US takes seriously any allegation that the ports are not operating at a normal and reasonable rate," the letter said.

It went on to say Washington would "not tolerate any interference" with the Oct. 8 federal court order that ended the ports closure.

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