LOS ANGELES — Negotiators for three national chains and 65,000 union employees returned to the bargaining table here last Wednesday, two days after union members voted by more than 90% to authorize a strike.
The two sides were scheduled to meet at least through Friday, although the union can call a strike at any time, with 72 hours' notice, it said.
While the employers are making contingency plans in case of a strike, they have not begun lining up temporary workers to replace union members should a strike or lockout be called, Brad Chase, a spokesman for Albertsons, Ralphs and Vons, told SN last week.
According to union spokesman Michael Shimpock, there was speculation last week that, if a strike occurs, one of the three chains might opt to shut down all but its highest-performing stores and assign management to staff those stores.
While financing of the health benefits plan remains a sticking point in the talks, another point of separation became public last week: a plan proposed by the employers that workers hired once a new contract is ratified would be able to achieve the same top pay scale as those hired under the prior contract after 13,000 hours, or approximately 11 years on a part-time basis; up to that point, however, their pay would range from 50 cents per hour to $2 per hour less.
With two tiers having been imposed under the previous contract, the union believes this proposal would create a third tier, Shimpock told SN.
Separately, Kroger last week said it had reached tentative contract agreements with workers from three UFCW locals in Dallas and Houston. A union spokeswoman told SN the two sides reached a compromise on funding the health and welfare fund, an issue that had been stalling the talks.