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Dominick's Employees OK New Labor Deals

CHICAGO -- A three-year labor rift between Dominick's Finer Foods here and some 12,000 clerks and deli, meat, and seafood workers is over at last.

Dominick's employee-members of the United Food and Commercial Workers Locals 1546 and 881 voted this week by "a substantial margin" to accept corporate parent Safeway Stores, Inc.'s latest contract proposals.

Two separate three-year pacts will take effect immediately -- one for baggers, cashiers, and stockers belonging to both locals, and a second for meat, fish, and deli staffers belonging only to Local 1546.

Dominick's workers reportedly overwhelmingly approved the new deals, highlights of which include a two-tier health care benefit program that for the first time requires workers to contribute to their health care premiums, a wage increase of nearly 6 percent over the life of the three-year contracts, and an early retirement buyout offer.

The Chicago Sun Times reported that the "deal would raise most senior employees' pay by 95 cents an hour to $16.90 from $15.95 an hour by the last year of the contract," and would give workers bonuses depending on seniority. "The agreements require part-time workers to contribute $5 a month to their health insurance premiums and full-time employees to contribute $10 a month."

In a statement Ronald Powell, UFCW Local 8981 president said: "The strong ratification vote indicates that the workers saw the new agreement as an improvement over the offer they rejected three years ago."

"These workers have been patient and held strong for a very long time," UFCW Local 1546 president Kenneth Boyd was quoted in published reports. "We are pleased [the workers] finally have a new contract. We are prepared to work with the company to put Dominick's back on solid footing."

Dominick's, a unit of Pleasanton, Calif.-based Safeway Inc., owns 99 supermarkets in the Chicago area.

In November 2002 the dispute between the unions and management almost resulted in a strike. The employees remained on the job after Safeway agreed to sell the chain. Safeway officials claimed to have found a buyer for Dominick's. However, it said the unidentified buyer withdraw the offer after it was unable to come to terms on a long-term contract with locals 881 and 1546.

In November 2003 Safeway pulled Dominick's off the block and refocused its efforts on coming to terms on a new contract with members of locals 881 and 1546.
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