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Government Orders U.S. Retailer, Unions to Talk

June 30, 1995 GMT

STOCKHOLM, Sweden (AP) _ The government Friday ordered the U.S. retailer Toys R Us and a union to resume talks next week to seek a resolution in a seven-week strike.

The strike, while affecting only about 150 workers, gained prominence because the company refused to sign a standardized collective agreement, a pact with 25,000 companies have signed that is at the heart of union influence in Sweden.

As a result, truck drivers, garbage collectors, newspapers and even mail carriers joined forces against Toy R Us, which has kept its three stores open using replacements.

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Sweden’s labor mediation committee, facing criticism for not stepping in, told the company and the Swedish Commercial Employees Union to sit down on Tuesday morning.

If either side refuses to negotiate, it risks being fined by the Swedish Labor Court, the union said.

Company officials could not be reached for comment.

The central agreement sets uniform, minimum standards on wages, vacation time, job security and other issues. Toys R Us, based in Paramus, N.J., has said it would consider the agreement only as a basis for its own separate agreement.

``We will not sign a piece of paper that says sign or else. We wish to negotiate an amicable agreement with the unions,″ David Rurka, managing director for Britain and Scandinavia, said this week.

The union staged rallies against the company, which then canceled talks set for last week.

``The truth is that they are not willing to negotiate,″ said union leader Kenth Pettersson.

He said the company’s British negotiator ``thinks that this is the U.K. or France or the United States. Sweden is Sweden and the (union) feeling is rather strong among working people.″

Toys R Us has more than 900 stores around the world and 175 in Europe. It opened the three Swedish outlets last year at a cost of about $34 million.