The United Food and Commercial Workers union has deemed unacceptable the latest health care proposals for San Francisco area grocery workers made by supermarket chains including Safeway.

"If they're serious about this and don't get off it, they're going to have a labour dispute," Ron Lind, a spokesman for the UFCW, was quoted by Reuters as saying.
"They're not willing to put enough money into it to sustain decent benefits for folks, particularly new hires," Lind added.

The union represents 30,000 grocery workers in the San Francisco Bay area and has been in talks with Safeway, Albertsons and Kroger over health care costs and wages. Similar talks last year in Southern California ended in a four-month-long strike and lockout. Unionised grocers say they are struggling to compete with non-unionised chains, such as Wal-Mart, especially given rising health care costs.

"This is an initial proposal that will be subject to further bargaining between the parties," Safeway spokesman Brian Dowling said of the latest health care proposal.

"However, the companies' offer is a credible proposal not unlike proposals the UFCW has found acceptable in other regions. Any contract settlement must address the very real problem of rapidly escalating health care costs in a changing competitive environment. Even this initial proposal would preserve affordable health care and provide our employees with health care benefits far better than what most Americans receive," Dowling added.