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November 20, 2012 | last updated November 20, 2012 11:39 am

Judge directs Hostess, union to mediation

Hostess Brands Inc. and union officials are back at the bargaining table at the urging of a New York U.S. Bankruptcy Court judge, according to the Los Angeles Times.

On Monday, Judge Robert Drain recommended the sides attempt mediation to resolve the conflict and preserve the company and its 18,000 workers, including about 370 of them at a Biddeford bakery. The action follows a company announcement that it would seek bankruptcy if a strike persisted at plants across the country.

There, as elsewhere, workers protested that the company had stopped paying into employee pensions, a move that was not part of the company's bankruptcy proceedings where a judge approved the company's imposition of a new contract that cut pay by 8% and reduced employee benefits.

A hearing to consider the company's motion to dissolve and sell its assets remains scheduled for Wednesday at 11 a.m. in a Michigan court, according to a press release on the company's website — a hedge in case the mediation doesn't work out, according to the newspaper.

Should negotiations fail, a number of potential buyers — including ConAgra Foods Inc., Kraft Foods Inc., and Nestle, according to the LA Times — have expressed interest in the company.

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