08/26/2014 03:32 EDT | Updated 10/26/2014 05:59 EDT

Workers approve grain company contract, plan to return to work for Northwest wheat harvest

PORTLAND, Ore. - Employees who had been embroiled in a lengthy and sometimes violent labour dispute have voted to return to work Wednesday for three Northwest grain merchants — in time for the wheat harvest.

The International Longshore and Warehouse Union said 88 per cent of its members voted to ratify a contract running through May 2018. It includes work rule changes and raises.

The grain handlers association says the agreement is fair and would allow the companies to remain competitive.

Louis Dreyfus Commodities, United Grain and Columbia Grain operate grain terminals in Portland, Seattle and Vancouver, Washington. More than a quarter of all U.S. grain exports move through nine terminals on the Columbia River and Puget Sound.

Two years of negotiations, lockouts and occasional violence centred on the companies' efforts to get management-friendly work rules to match those at other area terminals.