HUNTS POINT — A dispute over wages could lead to a strike at the Hunts Point Market this weekend.
Employees at the market are seeking an extra $25 per week for the next three years, according to representatives from Teamsters Local 202.
"We’re asking for 25 to stay alive," said Leo Servedio, business agent for the union. "Five dollars a day is not a lot of money to ask for."
Management countered with an offer of an extra $16 per week in the first year, followed by increases of $22 per week in the second and third years. They are also asking all union employees to start contributing $20 per week out of their paychecks to their health care plans in the third year of the contract.
Robert Leonard, a spokesman for the Hunts Point Produce Cooperative, described the offer as very reasonable and stressed that the numbers on the two sides were not very different.
"We are about $60 over three years, and they’re looking for $75," he said. "We’re not that far apart."
Employees had planned to walk off the job at 12:01 a.m. on Friday, but after a federal mediator stepped in, workers decided to postpone any action until 4 p.m. on Sunday, Jan. 18.
Servedio said he was hopeful that the two sides could come to a solution.
"We’re all hoping," he said. "We’re all hoping that they come to their senses and come back to the table."
Joshua Bedford, chef at Charlie's Bar and Kitchen in Mott Haven who gets ingredients like Brussels sprouts, tomatoes and herbs from the market, said that a strike at the facility would be troubling for his restaurant.
He might have to start using lesser quality ingredients and change some of his recipes if workers walk off the job, he said.
"We’d probably have to change what we’re using," he said. "There are certain things that I get that I can only get from there."
The market handles 210 million packages of fruits and vegetables per year, and there is a contingency plan in place to keep it running and providing produce to the region in the event of a strike, according to Leonard.
"We’re hopeful that we will come to a positive resolution for both sides, both for labor and for management," he said.
Workers at the market currently make an average of about $44,000 per year, according to Servedio.
"We just want some fairness for the members," he said, "and I don’t think $5 a day is unfair."