Business remained open at the ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles on Friday despite news that clerical workers had voted down a contract proposal that ended a major strike in December.

Representatives at both ports reported no picketing or disruption Friday and urged the Harbor Employers Association and the International Longshore and Warehouse Union Local 63 Office Clerical Unit to return to the table and hammer out an agreement.

"As always, we encourage all the parties to work through a solution that does not bring any interruption to Port operations," Port of Long Beach spokesman Daniel Yi said.

After voting late Wednesday, all 16 Office Clerical Unit bargaining units failed to ratify the Dec. 4 tentative agreements, apparently stunning both shippers and union officials.

"We had anticipated that the union would honor the deal reached to end the strike and ratify," said Steve Getzug, a spokesman for the employers association. "For now, the clerks are operating under the provisions of the former contract and operations at the ports are running normally."

A representative with the Local 63 Office Clerical Unit did not return calls for comment Friday.

Jonathan Gold, Vice President for Supply Chain and Customs Policy for the National Retail Federation, said he was disappointed by the vote.

"Ratification of a contract is needed to give retailers and other industries that rely on these ports the predictability they need to make long-term plans and get back to growing their businesses and creating jobs," Gold said in a statement. "We can't afford to see another shutdown. As labor and management work to resolve this situation, uninterrupted operation of the ports should be their top priority. Too many jobs across the country depend on these ports to let any interference with operations be considered an acceptable way of doing business."

More than 268,000 people work in trade-related jobs in Southern California, including nearly 177,000 in Los Angeles County alone, said Ferdinando Guerra, an associate economist with the Kyser Center for Economic Research and a primary contributor to the annual International Trade Trends report.

While it's too early to predict how it will affect the ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles dollar-wise, the news may give shippers some pause about moving cargo through the ports, Guerra said.

That may affect the twin ports' long-term, especially if a tentative agreement reached last week between the United States Maritime Alliance and the International Longshoremen's Association is ratified, Guerra said.

"The ports are doing everything they can to keep business," he said. "The last thing they need are these labor issues."

In late November, more than two years of talks fell apart between the union representing more than 600 clerical workers at both ports and their employers representing shipping agencies and terminal operators in Southern California.

Clerical workers feared that terminal companies had been moving jobs to lower-wage workers in other states and countries. Management negotiators denied the accusations and said the new contracts would need to stop providing temporary and permanent jobs to workers even when there was no work to perform.

Because longshore workers were allowed to honor the strike, it led to a major shutdown of the nation's busiest seaport complex for the first time in a decade, effectively closing 10 of 14 terminals and slowing goods movement to the rest of the nation.

It stranded ships off the coast and at the docks and forced some to divert to other ports.

More than 60 percent of goods that move through the two ports are bound for destinations outside of Southern California.

After an eight-day strike, a tentative agreement had been reached by both parties with the help of Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and a federal mediator. 

According to the Harbor Employers Association, the proposed contract covered the period of July 2010 through June 2016 and would have been effective upon ratification. Its terms included:

A 30-day exemption to filling temporary positions under certain leaves of absence conditions;

The ability to reduce 14 full-time positions through attrition;

Language to confirm current practice that all work under the Office Clerical Unit jurisdiction remains with unit clerks;

Job guarantees;

A one-time $4,000 payment covering increases they would have had during the past 30 months;

A $1 hourly increase upon ratification, with another $1 hourly boost in July; any future increases/adjustments beyond that will be spelled out in the West Coast industry contract in 2014; and

$150-per-month pension contributions per year of service would increase to $170 by the end of the contract.

Staff writer Brian Sumers contributed to this report.

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