WASHINGTON – If you can’t get to the groceries next week, the groceries may still be able to come to you.
Peapod, the grocery delivery service for Giant Food, said a possible strike this week by Giant store employees will have no effect on its operations — except that it might boost business.
Elana Friedman, a spokeswoman for the Illinois-based Peapod, said the Internet grocer has not hired more workers to deal with any surge in delivery requests, but is “rearranging schedules” so employees can handle more deliveries.
“We want to make sure that we can appropriately handle the volume and that we can handle everything that comes our way,” she said.
United Food and Commercial Workers union contracts with Giant and Safeway groceries in the Washington-Baltimore area are set to expire March 30. Union and company negotiators were working Friday and talks were expected to continue into the weekend.
At issue are wages, health benefits and other issues. Harry Burton, who is negotiating on behalf of both groceries, said negotiations could continue right up to Tuesday “if necessary.”
Both Safeway and Giant stores will close Tuesday from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. so workers can vote on a collective-bargaining agreement. If they vote the proposed contract down, Burton said, workers will then vote on whether to strike.
A strike would affect about 30,000 employees and nearly 330 stores in the Washington and Baltimore area.
Union representatives were in negotiations Friday and could not be reached for comment on the progress of the talks or the likelihood of a strike.
But Giant and Safeway are both advertising for temporary employees in the event of a strike. As of Friday, a spokesman for Giant said the chain had hired more than 1,500 temporary workers, but was looking for more.
Friedman said Friday that a strike at Giant will not affect Peapod, because their employees are represented by two different unions — Peapod drivers are members of the Teamsters union. Peapod has one warehouse in Maryland and about 75 local workers, she said.
Philip Giles, a Teamsters representative, said he did not think Peapod employees would be involved if a grocery strike took place.
Peapod is “separate from the stores,” Giles said. “Our members are the truck drivers, and I assume that Peapod will be unaffected.”
Barry Scher, the Giant Food spokesman, agreed.
“You might as well ask the postal workers, ‘If Giant goes on strike, will you still work?'” Scher said. “It’s got nothing to do with us. Totally different union, totally different company.”
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