STRIKE IS AVERTED IN CANADA AS A&P-UNION TALKS PROGRESS

TORONTO -- A&P Canada and the United Food and Commercial Workers union here made enough progress in negotiations to avert a threatened strike last week.Following weeks of tough talk, both sides appeared more restrained and even somewhat hopeful in public statements. However, it wasn't clear precisely how far apart they remained on the issues.The union extended its strike deadline indefinitely pending

TORONTO -- A&P Canada and the United Food and Commercial Workers union here made enough progress in negotiations to avert a threatened strike last week.

Following weeks of tough talk, both sides appeared more restrained and even somewhat hopeful in public statements. However, it wasn't clear precisely how far apart they remained on the issues.

The union extended its strike deadline indefinitely pending continued advancement in the talks, said Dave Killham, communications coordinator for UFCW locals 175 and 633, the two locals involved in the talks. The UFCW had set a strike for June 20 if negotiations continued to be stalled. The job action would have affected about 9,500 workers at 102 stores across Ontario. "For the first time A&P acknowledged we have issues, so we said we'd look at their issues too," Killham told SN. "As a result, we decided to extend the strike deadline. I think what helped the progress for both sides was the arrival of the deadline. Neither side wanted a strike."

In a written statement, Gerald Good, chief executive officer of A&P Canada, hailed the union decision to avoid a strike. "We are extremely pleased to inform our customers that all stores remain open for business as usual," he said.

The Ontario Labor Ministry has appointed a mediator, John Tonellato, to handle the dispute. A&P's negotiating position has centered on a plan to convert 25 stores -- and perhaps more later -- to a lower-service format with a reduced-cost union agreement.