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Raley's delays imposing contract terms; last-ditch union talks set

Published: Wednesday, Oct. 31, 2012 - 12:00 am | Page 6B

With a possible strike just days away, Raley's and its labor union said Tuesday they will resume bargaining in what could be a last-ditch effort to make peace.

Raley's postponed by two days its plan to unilaterally implement its "last and final" contract offer, which includes a wage freeze and various concessions. Imposing those terms would likely trigger a strike by the United Food and Commercial Workers.

The West Sacramento grocer had planned to implement the new contract Thursday at noon. Instead, its negotiators will meet that afternoon with UFCW leaders. The meeting was suggested by a federal mediator, who will oversee the talks.

Raley's also agreed to extend the old labor contract through midnight Saturday night. If there's no deal, and no further contract extension, a strike could begin Sunday morning, union officials said.

"We want to explore every possibility," said Raley's spokesman John Segale in explaining the decision to resume talks. "No one will win in a strike."

Jacques Loveall, president of UFCW Local 8 in Roseville, said in a memo to his members: "We are pleased Raley's has thought better of its plans to implement concessions on Thursday.

"Perhaps the real possibility of a strike will compel Raley's to change course and finally begin negotiating in earnest for a settlement addressing the needs of everyone – both the company and union members," he added. "Your union is prepared to negotiate nonstop so long as a contract extension is in place."

Raley's said it has never had a strike and plans to keep many of its stores open if there is a walkout. Experts say a strike would severely injure the company, given the slew of alternatives available to grocery shoppers.

Raley's, which has been hammered by nonunion competition, told its workers earlier this month the company needs concessions because it's losing millions of dollars a year. The union has said it is willing to help the company but isn't yet convinced of its financial troubles.

The union had been planning a rally Thursday morning in front of the Federal Building on I Street in downtown Sacramento. Despite the resumption of negotiations, the rally will go on as scheduled, said union spokeswoman Ellen Anreder.

After a year of negotiations, Raley's gave the UFCW its "last and final" offer three weeks ago. The company then said it would implement the terms of that offer unilaterally because union leaders refused to submit the proposal to members for a vote.

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