MONTVALE, N.J. — Ron Burkle, who is heading an effort to buy A&P out of bankruptcy and is in line to be its next chairman, met Monday with leaders of the unions representing workers at the chain, offering assurances that his experience and their contributions could make the company great again.
Sources present at the meeting in Newark, N.J., said Burkle was light on specific details but provided a shot of confidence for organized workers considering what one union president described as “monumental” contract concessions underpinning the turnaround. They also said they consider the possibility of a Burkle-led A&P preferable to other potential results of the Chapter 11 process.
“If you look at all the possible scenarios, this is one of the better ones,” John T. Niccolai, president of United Food and Commercial Workers Local 464, Little Falls, N.J., told SN. “This isn’t Ron Burkle’s first ride at the rodeo. If you going to make a deal with someone, that’s who you make a deal with.”
Around 95% of A&P’s 41,000 employees are union represented.
“When you hear someone like Ron Burkle speak, you get that he gets it,” added Pat Purcell, a spokesman for UFCW Local 1500, Westbury, N.Y. “He’s able to refer to other situations where he’s been able to turn companies around. That’s what he brings to the table.”
Niccolai said the unions, working with officials of UFCW International, still have to determine what sacrifices can be made amid a proposal from management that amounts to “a broad-based gutting” of the current contracts. “We understand one another’s positions, so it’s just a question of what’s doable at this point,” he said.