WESTCHESTER COUNTY, N.Y. -- The Great Atlantic & Pacific Tea Company, Inc., better known as A&P, announced that it has extended the deadline for bid submissions for its stores in connection with its bankruptcy filing.
In a federal bankruptcy court filing submitting on Friday, Sept. 11, A&P set a new deadline for Sept. 17. The previous deadline had been on Sept. 11.
A&P also delayed the deadline for which it would cancel an auction due to lack of qualified bidders from Sept. 15 to Sept. 18. Meanwhile, the deadline for publishing qualified bidders and for selecting opening bid amounts has been pushed back from Sept. 21 to Sept 25.
The date for potential auctioning has also been postponed to Oct. 1 to 2. The original dates were from Sept. 24 to 25. As a result, notice announcing the successful bidders will be pushed on Oct. 3 instead of Sept. 26. The deadline for parties to file objections to the successful bids will be delayed on Oct. 2 to Oct. 9., while the deadline for A&P's response to such objections has been pushed back from Oct. 6 to Oct. 15. Finally, a sale hearing, which is the last portion of the process prior to closing of the deals, has been delayed to Oct. 16 from the original date of Oct. 7.
A&P cites several factors in delaying the bid and auction dates, including the visit of Pope Francis to New York City, religious holidays and the convening of the United Nationals General Assembly.
A&P, which filed for bankruptcy in July, has secured stalking-horse bidders for 118 of its stores, including several in Westchester and Putnam counties ; a 120-store figure was previously announced. The three prospective bidders, which may obtain possession of the stores' leases if no competing bids are submitted, include Stop & Shop, Key Food and Acme Markets.
Around 150 of A&P's stores do not have a clear future or bidders, A&P disclosed in a separate filing this past week.
Meanwhile, A&P is seeking to restructure its union contracts – a filing notes that it has 35 collective bargaining agreements – and to eliminate retiree benefits. Specifically, A&P is seeking to get out what is called “bumping,” whereby more senior union employees get priority to keep their jobs over junior workers. Ali Rizvi, a labor consultant for the grocery store chain warns that keeping it un place will be disruptive to the sales process.
“If implemented, the bumping provisions will create a domino effect, as when a more senior union employee displaces a more junior employee at another store, the junior employee will likely in turn bump a more junior employee at yet another store,” Rizvi states. “This cascading of employees through multiple stores over a compressed period of time is disruptive to operations as the staff at any given store is constantly changing, and is exacerbated under the current circumstances where twenty-five stores are closing at once, there are multiple purchasers for approximately 118 stores owned by the Debtors, and the fate of an additional 150 plus stores is unknown at this time.”
The fate of bumping rights has been a contested matter between management and labor, according to news reports. Judge Robert Drain, who is presiding over the case, issued an interim order allowing for A&P to restructure its bargaining agreements; however, there is a limited window for doing so and A&P is seeking a permanent resolution to do away with the financial aspects of bumping.
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