STRIKE CALLED AT 73 CANADA SAFEWAYS

CALGARY, Alberta (FNS) -- Canada Safeway's 11,000 workers in 73 Alberta stores struck the chain last week, leading the retailer to begin hiring replacement workers.Chain employees walked out at midnight on Tuesday, setting up picket lines and waiting for the arrival of some 2,500 replacement workers.All the chain's supermarkets opened for business Wednesday morning, and a Safeway official estimated

CALGARY, Alberta (FNS) -- Canada Safeway's 11,000 workers in 73 Alberta stores struck the chain last week, leading the retailer to begin hiring replacement workers.

Chain employees walked out at midnight on Tuesday, setting up picket lines and waiting for the arrival of some 2,500 replacement workers.

All the chain's supermarkets opened for business Wednesday morning, and a Safeway official estimated about 300 regular employees crossed picket lines. Scattered scuffles and blockage of delivery trucks were reported.

There is a slight possibility that a vote today on Safeway's "final offer" could hasten conclusion of the strike. However, the United Food and Commercial Workers, Local 401, has urged rejection of the offer.

At issue is a determined attempt by the UFCW to win back wages workers conceded to the company four years ago when Safeway said it was in dire financial straits attempting to meet ever-increasing competition. Safeway calls its final offer "a substantial improvement over previous proposals and significantly better than settlements made with our competitors."

Grant Hansen, president and chief operating officer of Canada Safeway, said the final offer "recognizes the contribution made by employees in 1993, and contains wage and lump-sum improvements totaling $2 Canadian per hour for employees currently earning $14 Canadian or more per hour.

"Employees earning less than $14 Canadian will receive a wage increase on average of 42 cents per hour in 1997 and 25 cents per hour in each of the next three years -- in addition to their regular scale increases," Hansen said.

Safeway pointed out that its current offer to the UFCW unions is modeled after a UFCW settlement with the George Weston-owned Real Canadian Superstore, Safeway's chief competitor in Western Canada.

Doug O'Halloran, president of UFCW Local 401, said the union has asked shoppers to boycott Safeway until the dispute is settled.