NEWS WATCH: STAFF CUTS AT H-E-B HEADQUARTERS AFFECT 100 JOBS...PENN TRAFFIC POSTPONES BANKRUPTCY HEARING...U.S. ATTORNEY OFFERS IMMUNITY TO RALPHS WORKERS

STAFF CUTS AT H-E-B HEADQUARTERS AFFECT 100 JOBSans to realign about 100 administrative positions, more than half of which will be eliminated, according to local newspaper reports. Company officials could not be reached for comment. According to the reports, the company said the realignment is part of the chain's annual budgeting process aimed at improving efficiency. H-E-B will determine which of

STAFF CUTS AT H-E-B HEADQUARTERS AFFECT 100 JOBS

ans to realign about 100 administrative positions, more than half of which will be eliminated, according to local newspaper reports. Company officials could not be reached for comment. According to the reports, the company said the realignment is part of the chain's annual budgeting process aimed at improving efficiency. H-E-B will determine which of the 100 employees are qualified for other positions within the company, while those who lose their jobs will receive outplacement assistance, the reports said.

PENN TRAFFIC POSTPONES BANKRUPTCY HEARING

SYRACUSE, N.Y. -- Penn Traffic here said last week that it has received "multiple compelling proposals" for a sale-leaseback transaction involving most of its owned stores and warehouses, and therefore has postponed until Oct. 21 a preliminary hearing for its bankruptcy reorganization plan that had been scheduled for today. The company said it would use the proceeds from the transaction to repay debt and upgrade its stores. Meanwhile, certain creditors had been expected to ask the court to reject Penn Traffic's reorganization plan, which they said lacked detail, according to reports. The company, which operates 109 stores, said last month that it was hoping to emerge from Chapter 11 protection in October.

U.S. ATTORNEY OFFERS IMMUNITY TO RALPHS WORKERS

COMPTON, Calif. -- Employees of Ralphs Grocery Co. here who worked at a Ralphs store under a false name or Social Security number during the 141-day strike-lockout will not be criminally prosecuted if they cooperate fully with a federal criminal investigation, according to an advisement from the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Central District of California, a copy of which was obtained by SN. The advisement was sent to all hourly employees who were on Ralphs' payroll last October, when the strike against Safeway's Vons stores and a subsequent lockout by Albertsons and Kroger's Ralphs stores began. The advisement was accompanied by a letter from the chain's legal department to all hourly Ralphs' employees, asking those who worked under false names or Social Security numbers to provide the company with that information for recordkeeping and tax purposes. Ralphs has previously acknowledged hiring misconduct during the lockout.

COLORADO LABOR TALKS RESUME WITH MEDIATORS

DENVER -- Talks between United Food and Commercial Workers Local 7 here and the three major unionized chains in the state resumed last week after a one-week "cooling-off" period during which both sides exchanged information, a spokesman for the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service, Washington, told SN. The two sides, which are negotiating with the help of the regional director of the FMCS in addition to a mediator from the Denver office, agreed to extend the current contract to Oct. 16 and can extend it again beyond that date if necessary, the spokesman said. The three chains -- Albertsons, Safeway and Kroger-owned King Soopers -- had been negotiating separately, but the two sides agreed to begin negotiating collectively on separate contracts for the three chains, the union said.

AHOLD SEEKS TO DIVEST EUROPEAN FOOD-SERVICE UNIT

ZAANDAM, Netherlands -- Ahold here last week said it would seek to sell Deli XL, its Benelux food-service distribution arm, to allow it to focus more attention on its European retail operations. Ahold said it expects to launch the formal divestment process soon. Deli XL had 2003 sales of about $1 billion, primarily serving hospitals, company canteens, schools and hospitality outlets. The move is part of Ahold's review of assets as it attempts to reduce its debt in the wake of last year's accounting scandal. In the U.S., its Bruno's and Bi-Lo chains remain on the selling block.