Amid contract negotiations, employers warn West Coast dockworker lockout could be days away

Employers could lock out West Coast dockworkers in as few as five days if the two sides do not reach a new contract.

That warning came Wednesday from the head of a maritime association who is negotiating a new deal with a union representing longshoremen at 29 ports that handle about $1 trillion in trade annually.

Pacific Maritime Association CEO James McKenna said he wanted to avoid a coast-wide port shutdown, but employers wouldn't keep paying workers who aren't moving cargo at their normal rate if the ports become much more gridlocked. He said that could come between five and 10 days from now.

A spokesman for the International Longshore and Warehouse Union said the differences between negotiators were small.

After his remarks, McKenna returned to negotiations in San Francisco.