It is not exactly a promise of lifetime security, but employees at Hecht's can pretty much count on keeping their jobs until March.

The planned acquisition of Hecht's owner, May Department Stores, by Federated Department Stores apparently has left May's employees jittery about the likelihood of store closings and job cutbacks. So the chief executives of the companies recently sent out a joint letter that promised "no workforce reductions or job eliminations as a result of the merger prior to March 1, 2006."

After that, they wrote, "in addition to the large majority of the stores, most central and support areas will continue operating" and "in a number of areas many of those jobs will become permanent parts of the new organization."

The $10.4 billion acquisition announced in February would create a department store giant with 950 stores and about $30 billion in annual sales. May's regional stores, including Hecht's in the Washington area, are expected to be converted to Federated's biggest department store brand, Macy's. The deal is expected to be approved by shareholders of both companies at separate meetings on July 13. But the acquisition has not yet been approved by antitrust regulators at the Federal Trade Commission.

In their letter, chief executives Terry J. Lundgren of Federated and John L. Dunham of May, said: "We want everyone at May to be able to take a deep breath and realize that there is time for Federated to learn more about May, and there is time for May associates to learn more about the new company and the potential opportunities it will provide."

The companies plan to close the deal in the third quarter of 2005 . Delaying cutbacks until March may encourage workers to stick around through the holiday selling season at year-end.