International News - UFCW suing Ralphs chain in strike row

The industrial dispute dogging the Californian operations of US grocers Safeway, Kroger and Albertsons is becoming mired in legal action.

The United Food and Commercial Workers Union (UFCW), which is orchestrating the strike over healthcare benefit cuts, is suing the Kroger-owned Ralphs chain.

The UFCW alleges the grocer has been employing striking workers under assumed names and social security numbers.

In a separate action, the supermarket trio is facing an antitrust probe by the Californian state attorney general over a pact to share the financial hardships of the strike. The deal may contravene state and federal laws.

Several rounds of negotiations have failed to deliver an agreement since 70,000 grocery workers took to the picket lines in October.

The last peace summit, in December, collapsed when the union compromise proposal - to reduce employer funding of benefits packages by US$400 million (£219.2 million) - fell short of the US$1 billion (£548 million) that the grocers want to claw back.