International News - US supermarkets face further strike action

A band of US grocers has fanned fresh flames of industrial disquiet, this time in the Pacific Northwest, by pre-empting union action with a recruitment drive. The area's four biggest supermarkets, Safeway, QFC, Fred Meyer and Albertsons, incensed United Food & Commercial Workers negotiators by advertising for temporary replacement staff ahead of any strike or lockout. The labour contract that governs the working conditions of up to 25,000 workers in the Seattle area expires on May 2, and is under negotiation.

The supermarkets want to reduce labour costs, and are bracing themselves for a repeat of the five-month stand- off in California. Grocers involved in the Californian action are still extricating themselves from the ensuing quagmire.

Kroger is reported to be paying Safeway and Albertsons up to US$116 million (£65.3 million) under the terms of a mutual-aid pact designed to ensure that any losses borne by the grocers, who acted in concert, were shared equally.