US grocery retailers Albertsons, Kroger and Safeway have requested a recommencement of talks with union leaders with the assistance of a federal mediator in a bid to end a near four month long labour dispute in southern California.

Meanwhile, the United Food and Commercial Workers union, which represents around 70,000 grocery workers involved in the dispute, has proposed the dispute be settled via binding arbitration, reported Reuters.

The UFCW also proposed that all striking and locked-out workers should return to work immediately under the terms of a previously expired contract while an independent arbitrator resolved the dispute.

“It is time to end this conflict. We ask the supermarket companies to agree to this reasonable proposal for binding arbitration and put our members – their employees – back to work without delay,” the union was quoted by Reuters as saying.

However, the three supermarkets seemed unimpressed with the proposal, saying it preferred face-to-face talks because arbitration would involve an “outsider who is completely unfamiliar with the issues”.

The dispute, which began in October, centres on plans by the retailers to make workers contribute more towards health care costs.