KING KULLEN, TEAMSTERS SCHEDULE MEETING

WESTBURY, N.Y. -- King Kullen Grocery Co. officials will meet with union representatives tomorrow in hopes of settling a seven-week strike against the chain by Teamsters Local 282.King Kullen here said it will increase its offer of severance pay from $1.5 million to $2 million, to be divided among 112 union warehouse workers whose jobs were eliminated when the company began outsourcing its grocery

WESTBURY, N.Y. -- King Kullen Grocery Co. officials will meet with union representatives tomorrow in hopes of settling a seven-week strike against the chain by Teamsters Local 282.

King Kullen here said it will increase its offer of severance pay from $1.5 million to $2 million, to be divided among 112 union warehouse workers whose jobs were eliminated when the company began outsourcing its grocery distribution to nonunion wholesaler Bozzuto's, Cheshire, Conn., and closed its own warehouse here.

As reported in SN, members of Local 282 walked away from the original severance package offer, saying they were more interested in preserving jobs than in the money.

"The union stated clearly and repeatedly, we want our jobs back," said Teamsters Local 282 international trustee Gary LaBarbera. "That's what we want, not severance pay."

LaBarbera said he will bring the company's latest offer back to members for discussion, "but we will recommend that they reject it."

Union leaders have called on King Kullen to explore "alternatives" that would preserve the warehouse positions, including an employee buyout of the facility. But the company said it is locked into a five-year contract with Bozzuto's and has no intention of reversing its decision to eliminate the warehouse jobs.

The union estimated that its picket lines have driven down sales at some stores 20% to 30%. King Kullen spokesman Singer declined to say how much sales were off but he told SN it was "nowhere near 30%."