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    Stop & Shop, Unions Talk On; Strike Threat Persists

    QUINCY, Mass. - Stop & Shop here said on Saturday that contract talks will pick up again this Thursday with five New England labor unions representing 43,000 workers in more than 200 stores, but union reps said over the weekend that they'll be ready to lead a strike by Sunday if an agreement isn't reached by then.

    QUINCY, Mass. - Stop & Shop here said on Saturday that contract talks will pick up again this Thursday with five New England labor unions representing 43,000 workers in more than 200 stores, but union reps said over the weekend that they'll be ready to lead a strike by Sunday if an agreement isn't reached by then.

    The chain, which is owned by Dutch conglomerate Royal Ahold NV, said in a statement that it had received "comprehensive and complicated proposals" from the unions, and that "difficult and complicated issues remain."

    Chain spokeswoman Faith Weiner said both parties agreed to resume negotiations on Thursday, and that the unions have agreed not to initiate a job action while those negotiations are still alive. She added Stop & Shop is hopeful that it will reach an agreement with the unions. The top issues in the contract talks remain health care, pensions, and wages.

    The president at one of the union locals involved in the negotiations told the Associated Press over the weekend that if the two sides can arrive at a fair solution for all, the union reps would recommend such a settlement this coming Sunday.

    "We're booking hotels for next Sunday," Rick Charette, president of Local 1445, told the Associated Press. "We'll either have a contract on Sunday or we'll be on the street on Sunday."

    The parties said they have extended the negotiations several times since Feb. 18, when the previous three-year contract, covering 43,000 Stop & Shop workers in Connecticut, Massachusetts and Rhode Island, expired.

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