Kroger will face jury over hiring practices in strike

US grocer Kroger is being investigated for its hiring practices during the long-running Californian strike, which include allegedly allowing some staff members to 'work under false identities'.

The strike, involving grocers Kroger, Safeway and Albertsons, was resolved in February. However, a filing with the US Securities and Exchange Commission said a grand jury has been convened to hear the charges against Kroger.

The jury will consider whether the conduct would violate federal criminal statutes. Among the matters under investigation is the suggestion that store directors at Kroger-owned Ralphs 'knowingly allowed or enabled some locked out employees to work under false identities or fake Social Security numbers, despite company policy forbidding such conduct'.

Ralphs locked out its employees in October after Albertsons, Safeway and Kroger entered into collective bargaining with unions. The move came in response to a vote by workers to strike against Safeway chains Vons and Pavilions.

The statement from Kroger said it had 'substantial defences to any such claims' and that it was co-operating with the investigation.

The investigation will assess whether Ralphs' conduct during the dispute was unlawful, and consider if it should be liable under the National Labor Relations Act.

The strike ran for four-and-a-half months. It ended with compromise on both sides, with the supermarkets agreeing to a two-tier system where new staff would not be given full access to benefits.