Times Supermarket Employees on Strike

LILIHA (KHNL) -- Shoppers heading to Times Supermarkets on Oahu are being greeted by employees outside the store.

But it's not the kind of holiday greeting you might think.  It's anything but a warm greeting.

In fact, shoppers need to get past a line of picketing workers to get inside the supermarkets.

Meat and fish cutters at all 12 of Oahu's Times Supermarkets are picketing in front of the stores, instead working behind the counters.

The 116 deli workers are members of the Hawaii Teamsters Union, Local 996.

They walked off the job Monday morning, after rejecting the company's latest offer.

At issue is health benefits for workers on extended leave.  Times wants to cap their health benefits at one year.

Union officials released a statement saying: "This is not about money. It's about providing and maintaining a decent quality of life for our member's families."

But Times management says the one year cap is both "prudent and wise" in today's competitive environment.

"We feel that one year of coverage when you're out on any type of disability or workers comp, sick leave TDI, we feel the one year is very competitive and very generous," said Clifford Hayashi, Times Human Resources manager.

"We are hoping they come to the table and realize this is a benefit we have had for years and we are not just going to give it away," said James Lyon, a Teamsters representative.

The current deal offers unlimited premium payments for disabled employees.

Striking workers apologize for any invonvenience in the week leading up to Christmas.

For their part, Times officials say it's business as usual, and point out more than 90% of it's workforce is still on the job.

Times management says it is open to talks with the union, and stress they are hoping to settle the dispute as soon as possible