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Union, grocers hit a snag in talks

July 17, 2007|Jerry Hirsch | Times Staff Writer

Negotiations between Southern California's grocery workers union and the region's largest supermarket chains continued Monday, but have slowed over the issue of how many years employees have to work before reaching the top pay scale.

Both sides have reported progress in reaching a new pact in recent days, and some involved in the talks had believed a contract agreement was possible as early as Monday. But now people familiar with the negotiations say talks could continue for much of the week.

Neither side would comment on the record because of an agreement with the federal mediator to comply with a news blackout.

According to people familiar with the talks, the union wants workers to reach top pay after seven years of service. The chains haven't budged from eight years.

Negotiators for the 65,000 workers and Albertsons, Ralphs and Vons also remained apart on how much the grocery chains would pay to fund an improved health insurance program.

Both sides said they hoped to avoid a repeat of the 141-day strike and lockout during the last contract talks, in 2003-04.

The two sides have spent the last six months negotiating a new pact that would replace a contract that was to expire March 5, but has been extended.

jerry.hirsch@latimes.com

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