STRIKE CLOSES TO GIANT FOOD WAREHOUSES

LANDOVER, Md. (FNS) -- Giant Food truck drivers last week went on strike, forcing the chain to close its two warehouses and contract with wholesalers for direct-store delivery.The contract for Giant's 320 union drivers expired Dec. 14. Since then officials from Teamsters Local 639, store officials and state arbitrators remained at loggerheads over settling union wage demands. Drivers staffed picket

LANDOVER, Md. (FNS) -- Giant Food truck drivers last week went on strike, forcing the chain to close its two warehouses and contract with wholesalers for direct-store delivery.

The contract for Giant's 320 union drivers expired Dec. 14. Since then officials from Teamsters Local 639, store officials and state arbitrators remained at loggerheads over settling union wage demands. Drivers staffed picket lines outside of stores, as the United Food and Commercial Workers' Union, representing 13,000 of Giant's 20,000 cashiers and other employees, weighed a Teamsters' appeal to call for a sympathy strike. Teamster officials could not be reached for comment.

Moving to allay friction, Giant store officials, facing their first labor slowdown in 25 years, pledged to rehire any worker who went on strike. In addition, company officials said they would try to find work within the company for 2,300 distribution center employees temporarily laid off because of the strike, which is entering its second week.

A Giant spokesman said that as of late last week, Giant's 171 stores in the District of Columbia, Maryland, Virginia, Delaware, New Jersey and Pennsylvania were well stocked entering the pre-Christmas weekend and were frequented by normal shopper traffic.

Teamsters' officials have said the strike was called because Giant officials won't raise their hourly wages to $21.04 from $19.07 over the next five years. Giant officials counter that, when benefits and a proposed $500 annual bonus are figured in, truckers' wages would increase to $27.14. A union contract signed in May with Safeway pays drivers $19.50, before including the value of benefits, and $24.98 once benefits are figured in.

Teamster officials have argued the increase in Giant trucker wages is needed to ensure job security in light of the chain's interest in using more direct-store delivery by suppliers. In full-page advertisements in regional newspapers, Giant said as part of its move to more direct deliveries it is guaranteeing current drivers their jobs.