FRED MEYER LABOR, MANAGEMENT TO MEET

PORTLAND, Ore. -- The federal mediator assigned to the 10-week old strike against Fred Meyer Inc. here has called representatives from labor and management back to the negotiating table.Rick Sawyer, director of membership services for United Food and Commercial Workers Local 555, the union involved in the strike, said the mediator has requested meetings with labor and management on Tuesday, Oct. 18.Late

PORTLAND, Ore. -- The federal mediator assigned to the 10-week old strike against Fred Meyer Inc. here has called representatives from labor and management back to the negotiating table.

Rick Sawyer, director of membership services for United Food and Commercial Workers Local 555, the union involved in the strike, said the mediator has requested meetings with labor and management on Tuesday, Oct. 18.

Late last week, Sawyer said it was not clear whether the two sides would meet together or separately with the mediator. It is the first time the mediator has called the parties together since Oct. 2, he said.

In addition to the 26 Fred Meyer stores affected by the strike, the local Albertson's and Safeway stores have locked out some union workers since the strike began Aug. 18. Albertson's, Safeway and Fred Meyer are members of Food Employers, a local bargaining unit for management.

Nearly 9,000 workers in six counties in Oregon and Washington have been affected by the strike.

The mediator's move to attempt to resolve the strike follows labor's rejection of management's latest contract offer. Officials at Local 555 allowed a management offer to expire rather than allow members to vote on the proposal, Sawyer said.

That offer expired Oct. 9.

Sawyer called the offer "regressive," and said it sought to convert an estimated 1,500 union positions to non-union status. He said the offer also included language on seniority issues that the union did not feel went far enough.

That offer would have allowed senior workers to take the schedules of junior workers if the junior workers received more hours. The junior workers would have had to trade their schedules with senior workers.

The offer also failed to include any guarantee of a percentage of workers who would be employed full-time, which is one of the union's most important demands, Sawyer said.

Jill Eiland, a spokeswoman for Food Employers, said the offer was similar to management's final offer before the strike began. In addition to the new language on seniority, the offer contained a $500 ratification bonus, she said.