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Twinkie maker Hostess, union enter mediation

Twinkie manufacturer Hostess said Monday it would enter mediation with its union aimed at resolving differences that forced it to shut down national operations and seek liquidation last week.

Hostess Brands, the maker of iconic super-sweet snacks and Wonder Bread, said it would start the confidential mediation with the Bakery, Confectionary, Tobacco and Grain Millers Union on Tuesday, after a request from the New York district bankruptcy court.

On Friday Hostess, already in bankruptcy proceedings, announced it was shutting down its hundreds of bakeries and outlets because it could not reach a deal with workers that would allow it to keep going.

The shutdown put most of its 18,500 staff out of work and ended production of its most famous item, the cream-filled sponge cake Twinkie, sending fans to clean the shelves of supermarkets and convenience stores where they are normally sold.

Hostess kept its production lines closed Monday and said the court hearing to wind down the company and sell its assets had been rescheduled for Wednesday.

The 82-year-old Irving, Texas-based company, with 33 bakeries, 553 distribution centers and 527 bakery outlets nationwide, produces famous baked snacks like Sno Balls, Ding Dongs, Ho Ho's, and Hostess CupCakes, and controls a number of brands like Wonder Bread and Nature's Pride.

The company was hit by the economic downturn and a shift in public tastes, but management has also blamed staff costs for its problems.

In a court filing Monday, the union pointed the finger at a management which it described as determined to shut down plants well before workers who were members of the BCTGM union walked out on strike on November 9.

"Blaming the BCTGM for the company's liquidation is no more credible than blaming an isolated gust of wind for blowing over a tree, when it was the tree's shallow, rotted root structure that was actually responsible."

The union said it hoped to transfer Hostess's assets to "true baking industry operators who will have a fighting chance of operating a baking business, rather than leave them with management and lenders whose intransigence and unwillingness to face directly the company's real problems has driven it into bankruptcy twice."

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