US grocery chain Kroger has suspended negotiations with striking union workers protesting against higher health care contributions.

Kroger has closed 44 stores in the West Virginia, Kentucky and Ohio regions, since 3,300 members of the United Food and Commercial Workers Local union went on strike on October 13.

Kroger spokesman Archie Fralin said: “Although we feel like the differences between us are narrower than they once were, the health care issue remains an obstacle that we have not been able to overcome.”