Saturday, October 09, 1999

Kroger talks break off; strike possible tonight

The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Contract talks between the Kroger Co. and 8,400 of its Greater Cincinnati workers broke off Friday with no agreement, prompting the union to give notice it intends to strike at midnight tonight.

        No talks were scheduled today between the company and the United Food and Commercial Workers Local 1099, said union spokesman John Marrone. But union leaders said Friday that both sides could return to the bargaining table in an attempt to avoid a strike.

        The union represents cashiers, baggers, clerks and workers in various food departments at 66 Cincinnati-area Kroger stores. Members voted to strike earlier this week after rejecting the company's latest offer for a new five-year contract. Their current five-year contract expires at midnight.

        Local Kroger store workers last went on strike in 1971. That work stoppage lasted about three weeks.

        Talks lasted throughout the day Friday before breaking off about 10:30 p.m., Mr. Marrone said. The issues continue to be pay, health care and the number of full-time workers.

        Steve Jagers, Kroger spokesman, was not available for comment late Friday.

        Earlier Friday, Mr. Jagers had said company expected an agreement before the strike deadline. He declined to comment on what steps Kroger would take in the event of a strike.

        When Kroger stores in other parts of the country have faced work stoppages, man agement workers have been used to keep stores open.

        The company proposal rejected by Local 1099 members this week called for pay increases of $1.50 an hour for department heads, $1.20 an hour for assistants and $1 an hour for most other workers with more than five years of experience, a union spokesman said Thursday.

        The union has asked for a four-year agreement with total pay raises of $2.40 an hour for department heads, $2.20 an hour for assistants and $2 for most other workers.


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