Negotiations were scheduled to continue into the early morning hours Sunday over a strike that has virtually shut down the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach – the nation's largest port complex.
The strike, begun Tuesday by several hundred clerical workers concerned their jobs are being sent out of state or overseas, has been honored by thousands of dockworkers who share the same union.
John Fageaux of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union said talks that have thus far been unproductive will continue.
"We expect to work long into the night," Fageaux said.
Seven of eight terminals in Los Angeles and three of six in Long Beach were closed to cargo container traffic Saturday, the fifth day of the walkout. The two ports handle about 40 percent of the country's import trade.
Clerical workers who are compensated a more than $160,000 per year, including benefits and 11 weeks of paid vacation, say their struggle is not about salary. Their contract with 14 terminal operators expired more than two years ago, and talks broke off Monday.
The chief negotiator for the shippers said Friday that he was hopeful about a resolution.
"There's a mutual commitment to go forward," said Stephen Berry of the Los Angeles/Long Beach Harbor Employers Association. "The employers remain hopeful that there will be a quick resolution and we can get the cargo flowing again."
At issue is the union's contention that terminal operators have outsourced local clerical jobs, an allegation the denied by the shippers, who say the union has insisted workers be hired even when there's no work to be done.
The shippers have offered lifelong job security to the 600 or so full-time clerical workers, Berry said.
The extent of the economic impact is not clear, but some ships that were waiting at the ports have already left for other destination, including commercial ports in Mexico and Panama, officials have said.
Truck drivers are idled and cargo cannot move. Eleven cargo ships were due to dock this weekend at the ports, where nine ships already are waiting to be unloaded.
The Associated Press and City News Service contributed to this report.