In contract dispute with West Coast port dockworkers, employers say union is taking 'break'

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LOS ANGELES — Negotiations over a new contract for dockworkers at 29 West Coast ports took an unexpected turn Thursday, as the union insisted on "small table" talks while employers decried the "extended break."

The full teams for the longshoreman's union and the association representing trans-ocean shipping lines and operators of port terminals aren't scheduled to meet again until Dec. 2.

The maritime association called the development a "slowdown tactic" — a pointed reference to their complaints that dockworkers are deliberately dragging as they load and unload ships.

Public pressure has been mounting to resolve labor strife at ports that handle billions of dollars of imports and exports each day.

A union spokesman said negotiations were going well and the change was a chance to tackle tough issues in small groups.

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