Operators at the Hunts Point Terminal produce market in New York have assured the public the market will still remain open even if unionists opt to strike this Sunday afternoon.
The announcement will come as a relief to grocers and restaurants from the East Coast, Midwest and some southern states who source fruits and vegetables from the market, which imports from all over the U.S. and the world with approximately US$2.4 billion in revenues each year.
Some 1,300 workers from the market have threatened to walk off their jobs if wage and healthcare contribution demands are not met.
In a statement given to www.freshfruitportal.com, Hunts Point Produce Cooperative spokesperson Robert Leonard said the group presented its last offer to the union in good faith a few days ago.
"We were just pennies per hour apart from their last offer on wages for the majority of the new contract period," Leonard said.
"Instead of continuing to bargain with us in good faith and come to an agreement that is fair to both sides - both labor and management, the union has chosen instead to make their arguments in the press.
"With the wage issues being relatively close on both sides, the union is now trying to extract 'takebacks' from the business operators, as they seek to undo items they agreed to in the last contract. By the third year of the new contract, our members will be paying over $950 per month in health benefits costs for each union worker."
He said the cooperative had merely asked that the balance of workers contribute US$20 per week toward their healthcare in the third year of the contract, representing just 9% of the total healthcare bill per worker.
"We eagerly await the opportunity to have productive discussions that can bring us to an agreement that avoids the unnecessary issues related to a walkout," he said.
"In the unfortunate event of a strike, contingency plans are in place to ensure the market remains open to continue providing fresh produce to the communities we serve."
Related story: U.S.: Hunts Point union negotiations aim to ward off strikes