The 19th day of the Giant Food truck drivers strike became a day of negotiations through the media.
First, Teamsters Local 639 held a news conference staking its position and offering to settle the strike immediately if Giant would agree not to hire wholesale food distributors to haul food that the truck drivers now deliver from the warehouse to the stores and to give a pay increase of 43 cents an hour.
Later yesterday, Giant's chief negotiator said the company would take that deal -- if the union agreed to roll back already agreed-upon benefits that are better than those of the Safeway drivers.
"If the union wants that subcontracting so badly that they are willing to give up the improvements [in wages and benefits], then they have got it," Giant's Roger D. Olson said.
Giant has long argued for a contract with its 320 truck drivers that would give it "a level playing field" with competitors.
"The company has insisted on parity with Safeway," said John Steger, vice president of Local 639. "We'll give it to them."
Steger said 43 cents would bring the Giant drivers to $19.50 an hour, the same wage that Safeway drivers are paid.
The union also said that, while the 43 cents an hour was important, it was an item open to negotiation.
"From the very start, the company has spread disinformation that this strike is about money," Steger said.
"That was ludicrous. We said it is about job security."
The union wants the same guarantees Safeway gave to its drivers, that the products now hauled by Teamsters would not be subcontracted out to wholesale food distributors, particularly when Giant expands into Pennsylvania, Delaware and southern New Jersey.
Giant has offered job security to each Teamster driver, but the union believes that it is fighting for its future.
As a Teamster driver retired or left, the numbers of Teamsters would diminish.
In the end, the union said, if it accepts Giant's right to use wholesale distributors, union workers would represent only a small part of the supermarket's distribution network.
The offer the union outlined to reporters was no different than the offer it had made Monday night in negotiations, said Steger. But Giant disagreed.
"Before we broke up Monday night, they had withdrawn their demand for the $19.50," Olson said.
Olson said Giant would give its drivers the same contract that Safeway drivers got last spring.
"Giant is prepared to offer the Safeway settlement language," Olson said.
Use of subcontractors
In other words, the company would not use subcontractors or wholesale distributors in any way that Safeway does not.
Safeway, however, does not have a frozen food distribution center as does Giant, so Giant would have the freedom to hire subcontractors for some work now done by the Teamsters.
However, Olson also said the company would agree to that only if the Teamsters accepted the same language governing wages and benefits.
That would mean that the Teamsters would have to roll back some benefits and hourly wages that are better than the Safeway drivers now have.
Sunday, holiday difference
For instance, Giant had agreed to continue paying its current drivers double time for Sundays and holidays.
Safeway's drivers receive only time and a half.
When asked if Giant's manage- ment is trying to call the union's bluff on the wage issue, Olson said, "Of course."
Giant also released a letter that its management had written and mailed directly to its drivers, making the company's case.
Olson said management believes that the union has not fairly represented its point of view, and he wanted to make a direct appeal.
Pub Date: 1/03/97