TRUCKER STRIKE BITES INTO GIANT'S INVENTORY

LANDOVER, Md. (FNS) -- Giant Food here was suffering last week from inventory gaps resulting from a trucker strike against the chain.Giant officials acknowledged the almost monthlong strike by its 320 drivers was taking its toll. Widespread product shortages were evident among the chain's 174 stores. While at the onset of the strike just private-label products dwindled, now many brand-name goods,

LANDOVER, Md. (FNS) -- Giant Food here was suffering last week from inventory gaps resulting from a trucker strike against the chain.

Giant officials acknowledged the almost monthlong strike by its 320 drivers was taking its toll. Widespread product shortages were evident among the chain's 174 stores. While at the onset of the strike just private-label products dwindled, now many brand-name goods, which are being replenished by outside suppliers, were hitting low levels, it was said.

The outside suppliers initially packed the stores with merchandise after the Dec. 15 walkout and store officials had counted on the surplus to outlive the strike, a Giant spokesman said.

"We didn't anticipate the strike would go on this long," the spokesman said at midweek, noting that suppliers were making new deliveries. "We expect the stores to soon be in excellent condition."

Although store and union officials went back to the bargaining table last week, talks soon broke off over union job-security concerns.

Teamsters Local 639 called for the strike over worries that Giant's interest in using direct-store-deliveries would ultimately mean a cutback in work for store truckers, who ferry goods from the chain's distribution center and private-label manufacturers. Giant officials have guaranteed no trucker cutbacks during the life of their five-year contract, which is now on the negotiating table.

The Giant spokesman said one positive change has occurred: The chain reopened its bakery operation, which had remained idle without the Giant truckers. Outside deliveries have been arranged.

Meanwhile, unionists stepped up their actions against Giant, last week turning their focus to the supermarket's British partner, J. Sainsbury PLC. Unionists last week delivered a proposed code of conduct for Sainsbury to follow regarding treatment of Giant employees.

"Sainsbury shouldn't buy out local companies and then try to destroy good jobs in our community," said John Steger, local vice president. "Sainsbury operates responsibly in Great Britain. Sainsbury should do the same here."