Safeway, workers agree to keep talking

Safeway agreed to resume negotiations with its union workers a day after they authorized a strike, a company spokeswoman said Sunday.

The labor contract between Safeway and its workers expired Saturday night without a new labor agreement and workers were planning to walk off their jobs as soon as Monday.

The grocery chain remains "committed to negotiating new agreements which recognize the realities of the current economy and the highly competitive retail food market in Colorado," said Safeway spokeswoman Kristine Staaf.

United Food and Commercial Workers Local 7 in Colorado represents about 17,000 workers at Safeway, King Soopers and Albertsons. The union said the three chains have offered similar proposals to replace the current labor contracts, which expired Saturday, but the sides still disagree over wages and pension benefits.

Staaf said Sunday's agreement means the labor agreements that expired Saturday will be extended on a day-to-day basis until May 30 while negotiations continue. She says that either side can agree to terminate their temporary agreement with a 24-hour written notice.

King Soopers workers also extended their contract until May 30 while they continue negotiations. Union spokeswoman Laura Chapin said contract negotiations are also continuing at Albertsons, although a deadline for a labor agreement has not been set.

Chapin said the union believes it's in "everyone's best interests to keep negotiating and fighting for a fair deal for workers."

Chapin said the union was glad negotiations will continue, but expressed dismay about the lockout provisions that King Soopers and Safeway have agreed to, which outlines that one chain can lock out its employees if workers at the other chain go on strike.

"We're still very concerned about those provisions," Chapin said.

The two chains have accepted applications for temporary workers if employees strike.

Chapin said the union will also start contract talks next week with the grocery stores in western Colorado, where the labor agreements expire in June.