LABOR TALKS UNSETTLED IN DENVER, N. CALIFORNIA

DENVER -- Labor talks here remained in limbo last week, while talks in two regions of Northern California were expected to continue at least through early January.Talks here came to a standstill 10 days ago after the two sides were brought together by a federal mediator. After a meeting in which no progress was made, the talks were suspended indefinitely "until the mediator determines that circumstances

DENVER -- Labor talks here remained in limbo last week, while talks in two regions of Northern California were expected to continue at least through early January.

Talks here came to a standstill 10 days ago after the two sides were brought together by a federal mediator. After a meeting in which no progress was made, the talks were suspended indefinitely "until the mediator determines that circumstances warrant," Dave Minshall, a union spokesman, told SN last week.

According to Minshall, representatives of United Food and Commercial Workers Local 7 met with representatives of Albertsons, Kroger's King Soopers, and Safeway under the aegis of the federal mediator. During the meeting, the chains held fast to their "last, best and final" contract offer, which the union deemed unacceptable.

When the union sought to offer what it termed "supposals" (informal proposals), "the companies said they were not interested in supposals, but only in proposals that lead to meeting their cost targets," Minshall said.

The contract here, covering 17,500 workers, expired Sept. 11. The union has been working without a contract ever since.

In Northern California, the contracts -- which expired July 17 for workers in the Sacramento Valley and Sept. 11 for those in the Bay Area -- are being extended on a day-to-day basis, with five days' advance cancellation notice, union representatives told SN.

The contracts in both regions cover employees at Albertsons, Kroger's Ralphs stores, Raley's, Safeway, Save Mart and a handful of independents, with UFCW Local 588 in the Sacramento Valley representing 19,000 workers at approximately 350 stores, stretching inland from Sacramento north to the Oregon border, and the Bay Area locals covering 30,000 union members at stores operating along the California coast from Monterey north to the Oregon border.

Jack Loveall, president of UFCW Local 588, said in a pre-recorded message the union is seeking "common ground with the employers, and though we haven't been able to find that ground yet, talks are ongoing."