- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Safeway is looking for temporary employees to operate its grocery stores in case there is a strike at the end of the month, when the contract between local grocery employees and operators expires.

Giant Food LLC and Safeway Inc. have negotiated since Feb. 13 with United Food and Commercial Workers locals 400 and 27, which represent employees in the Washington and Baltimore areas, according to the UFCW Local 400 Web site.

The current contract, which applies to all nonmanagement Giant and Safeway employees, expires March 29.

Safeway ran ads in the Baltimore Sun and The Washington Post Sunday advertising cashier, clerk and customer-service positions paying $12 per hour.

Employees were notified of the search for temporary employees last week in a letter from Safeway’s Eastern Division President Steve Neibergall.

“Safeway’s decision to begin hiring temporary employees, while significant, is not unusual in these types of negotiations,” he wrote, adding that the company did the same thing during the last round of contract negotiations in 2004.

He said the company must “prepare now for the possibility there may be labor disruptions as the bargaining process unfolds. We sincerely hope that is not the case.”

UFCW 400 said on its Web site yesterday that, “negotiations are slow.”

“The companies are continuing to insist on ‘givebacks’ that the union considers unacceptable,” the note said, adding that areas of discussion include pensions, wages and health benefits.

Pensions were a key point of contention in 2004. Those negotiations took on extra urgency after grocery employees went on strike for five months at stores in Southern California, including some Safeway stores.

A lawyer representing Giant and Safeway in the current negotiations declined to comment yesterday. Calls to the UFCW Local 400 went unreturned.

Employees in the Washington and Baltimore areas are scheduled to vote on final offers April 1. If they reject what is on the table then, they could vote to strike.

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