Supermarket union to negotiate again day after it breaks off talks

The union representing Southern California grocery workers said Wednesday it planned to resume negotiations with three supermarket chains after breaking off talks a day earlier.

Negotiators for the United Food and Commercial Workers plan to restart talks sometime next week, said Rick Icaza, president of Local 770.

The union and the supermarkets had previously scheduled talks on May 14.

“We want to go back and see if we can get a more reasonable offer than what we got before,” Icaza said.

Negotiations between the union and the grocers — Supervalu Inc.’s Albertsons, Kroger Co.’s Ralphs and Safeway Inc.’s Vons and Pavilions — have been going on intermittently since January.

“The companies remain committed to working with the union,” said Adena Tessler, spokeswoman for the chains.

Union negotiators left the talks late Tuesday after the companies proposed a plan that would reduce their contribution to a trust fund that provides workers with health care benefits, the union said.

The grocery chains criticized union negotiators for breaking off talks merely because they did not like the latest contract proposal.

Union negotiators broke off talks for several days last month after the grocers announced they would lock out employees if the union targets any one of the chains for a strike.

In recent weeks, the two sides have conducted shuttle negotiations, with each side meeting individually with a mediator.

Three-year contracts covering 65,000 workers at 785 stores from San Luis Obispo and Bakersfield south to San Diego expired in March. The contract has been renewing automatically on a daily basis and continues to do so until any of the parties opts to end the process.

The contract would then expire 72 hours later.

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