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Kroger, Local Union Leaders Keep Talking To Avoid Strike

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RALEIGH, N.C. — Representatives from the United Food and Commercial Workers and Kroger Company are still talking, seeking to avoid a strike at 19 Kroger stores in the Raleigh-Durham and Greenville area.

Kroger and UFCW Local 204 conducted three days of talks this week but were unable to come to an agreement.

Talks will resume the week of Aug. 28, according to John Lambert, a spokesman for Kroger in Roanoke, VA.

"There was some progress made in negotiations this week," Lambert said.

Kroger wants employees to begin paying a portion of healthcare benefits costs as of 2008, including $5 a week for single coverage, $10 for spouse/dependent per week, and $15 a week for employee plus family coverage.

The Union Local, which represents some 700 workers among the 1,917 employees, said that Kroger "refused to move on key issues like health care and wages".

Kroger said in a statement that both sides had reached agreement on pension issues.

The two sides have been talking since late July. The current contract expired on July 20.

Kroger is asking workers to pay $1.4 million toward healthcare costs over the next four years.

Local 204 described the talks as "grueling".

"During the negotiations, UFCW members made several fair and equitable proposals," the Union said in a statement. "Kroger, however, refused to move on key issues like health care and wages, effectively ending negotiations at that time. Kroger workers were angered that the company's negotiators appeared unable to make decisions on any of the proposals the UFCW offered."

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