Second union suspends talks with I.B.C.

by Eric Schroeder
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KANSAS CITY — Just a few hours after Interstate Bakeries Corp. said it had made progress in "long and productive" talks with the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers International Union (B.C.T.G.M.) regarding finding solutions to the challenges facing I.B.C., including Path-to-Market and cost structure issues, the Kansas City-based maker of Wonder Bread and Twinkies and its second-largest union suspended talks indefinitely.

"Our committee and the company made extraordinary progress in seeking solutions to the company’s financial and operating problems but so far have been unable to bridge the gap," said Frank Hurt, president of the B.C.T.G.M. "We expressed a willingness to recommend significant concessions to our members, but the company has said — at least for now — that those concessions were not enough."

Representatives of I.B.C. and the B.C.T.G.M. met in Washington Sept. 9-11 in an effort to put together a package of recommendations on which local union members would vote. At the heart of the talks was discussion on what to do about wage concessions, the union said.

Mr. Hurt said that while the union was willing to concede to certain cuts, by the time discussions broke off I.B.C. "was asking for more than we believed our members would ever agree to." He added that "continuing discussions at this time seemed fruitless."

Despite the break down in talks, the union said it would be willing to reconvene if additional progress seemed likely, and I.B.C. also said it would continue to search for a solution.

"Our company values its relationship with the B.C.T.G.M. and its members and is committed to reaching an agreement that will enable us to survive and preserve the jobs of our employees," said Dave Loeser, acting executive vice-president of human resources, I.B.C.

The break down in talks followed an announcement earlier in the day that I.B.C. would realign its organization and came two days after the company’s largest union, the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, ended negotiations and threatened a strike in Southern California.

The B.C.T.G.M. and the Teamsters represent about 20,000 of I.B.C.’s 25,000 employees.

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