NEWS WATCH: WASHINGTON CHAINS, UNION AGREE TO TALK PAST DEADLINE...COURT APPROVES DELAY IN PENN TRAFFIC REORGANIZATION...FORMER TWIN COUNTY CEO GETS SIX-MONTH SENTENCE

WASHINGTON CHAINS, UNION AGREE TO TALK PAST DEADLINEorkers Union locals that are negotiating with Safeway, Kroger and Albertsons here on a new contract for clerks and meat handlers have agreed to continue talking past the May 2 expiration of the current contract. Talks were scheduled to resume May 5 and continue on a meeting-by-meeting basis thereafter, Mike Hatfield, president, UFCW Local 44, Mount

WASHINGTON CHAINS, UNION AGREE TO TALK PAST DEADLINE

orkers Union locals that are negotiating with Safeway, Kroger and Albertsons here on a new contract for clerks and meat handlers have agreed to continue talking past the May 2 expiration of the current contract. Talks were scheduled to resume May 5 and continue on a meeting-by-meeting basis thereafter, Mike Hatfield, president, UFCW Local 44, Mount Vernon, Wash., told SN last week. "Health care is a huge part of this, like it is everywhere else in the country," he said, although he declined to provide more details about the negotiations, which he said affect about 25,000 workers.

COURT APPROVES DELAY IN PENN TRAFFIC REORGANIZATION

WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. -- The U.S. Bankruptcy Court here last week granted Penn Traffic, Syracuse, N.Y., a three-month extension to file its reorganization plan. The company, which filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection last May, now has until July 28 to file its plan. "From the start, we said we wanted to exit bankruptcy as a strong company," said Marc Jampole, spokesman, Penn Traffic. He added that the court also approved the sale of five supermarkets -- three Big Bears, one Quality Market and one Bi-Lo -- that had previously been shuttered. The stores will be included in an auction of certain Penn Traffic assets on May 21, but will be sold to the court-approved buyers if no higher bidders emerge at that time.

FORMER TWIN COUNTY CEO GETS SIX-MONTH SENTENCE

TRENTON, N.J. -- Martin Vitale, former chairman and chief executive officer, Twin County Grocers, Edison, N.J., was sentenced in U.S. District Court here to six months in federal prison after pleading guilty to defrauding Twin County and the Internal Revenue Service. Judge Stanley Chesler also fined Vitale $15,000, a spokesman for the court told SN. In January 1998, Twin County, a 125-store cooperative in the Northeast and Puerto Rico, sued Vitale and others, charging they had stolen $12.7 million from the company between 1992 and 1997. Twin County filed for bankruptcy in December 1998, and liquidated its assets.

FIRED EMPLOYEE: ROUNDY'S MAY HAVE COMMITTED FRAUD

MILWAUKEE -- A former employee of Roundy's here has called for an investigation of the company regarding an instance of alleged insurance fraud. Those allegations are false, Ed Kitz, Roundy's group vice president, legal, risk and treasury, told SN. He said the company would be willing to cooperate with any investigation, although it has not been asked to do so, nor has any investigation been launched. The request for an investigation was contained in a letter from Roger Alswager, a former vice president, real estate, to the Wisconsin insurance commissioner that suggested Roundy's may have committed fraud in allowing one of its vice presidents to retire on a disability in 2002. Alswager, who was fired by Roundy's in 2001, lost a subsequent defamation suit against the company that is currently on appeal. Alswager declined to comment when contacted by SN.

WORKERS APPROVE NEW FIVE-YEAR CONTRACT AT ACME

SEWELL, N.J. -- Members of United Food and Commercial Workers Union Local 1360 here voted last week to accept a new five-year contract with Acme Markets, a division of Albertsons, Boise, Idaho. According to the UFCW, the new contract, which covers about 34 stores in New Jersey and Pennsylvania, includes raises and preserves health benefits for existing members and retirees. It also contains increases in pension contributions. Neither Albertsons nor the union local could be reached for further comment.