Phoenix Supermarket Operators, Union Avert Strike

Safeway, Inc. and Kroger Co. banners Fry’s and Smiths have come to a tentative settlement with United Food & Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local 99 on a new collective bargaining agreement late last week, thus heading off a walkout. The strike, which was scheduled to begin Friday, would have involved as many as 25,000 workers in the Phoenix area.

Local 99 plans to submit the three-year contract to affected unionized workers with the recommendation that it be approved. The union and the supermarket operators have agreed to extend the existing contract until the pact is voted on. Local 99 spokeswoman Ellen Anreder told Progressive Grocer that it would take at least a week — or possibly longer — to coordinate a vote.

Although preparations were made on both sides for a possible strike or lockout, including the hiring of thousands of temporary workers to man stores, the tentative settlement means there will now be no work stoppage and that all stores will continue to operate as normal.

No details of the tentative agreement have been disclosed in advance of the employees’ review and vote, but previous news reports have noted that salary and benefit issues were major sticking points in the negotiations, particularly whether new hires should pay a $5 to $15 weekly co-premium toward their health care costs. The associates currently pay nothing for their health insurance coverage.

Employees have been working on extensions of a contract that originally expired in October 2008.
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