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Shaw's Workers May Walk

WEST BRIDGEWATER, Mass. - Shaw's Supermarkets workers say they're set to walk off the job when their contract runs out midnight Saturday, unless the retailer cancels planned reductions in employee health care benefits and begins to negotiate. About 6,400 members of the United Food and Commercial Workers Union Local 791 would be affected. The union represents about 30 percent of all employees at 39 Shaw's stores in Massachusetts and Rhode Island, as well as the workers at a distribution center in Wells, Maine.

According to the union, Shaw's plans would cause a 27 percent cut in benefits and divert thousands of dollars to employee insurance co-pays without upping salaries. Explaining that Shaw's proposals are "far too reaching" into workers' pockets, given the grocer's strong market position, Local 791 spokesman Peter Derouen told Progressive Grocer that the situation could be resolved if "Shaw's is willing to work with us within reason." Otherwise, he added, "We've got a problem."

Shaw's spokesman Terry Donilon maintained that the union is misrepresenting the company's proposals. "Two plans that Shaw's has proposed would cost associates less than $30 per week for family coverage," he told Progressive Grocer. "And under the company's health care proposal for the union plan, associates will pay less for individual coverage ($10 per week) than they pay in weekly union dues ($11 per week). The company proposals would also reduce the amount part-time associates currently pay for health insurance under the union medical plan. We're talking about associates paying 13 percent of the premium cost. That's affordable."

Donilon continued, "Shaw's is committed to doing whatever is necessary for the long-term health of the business, which includes proposing a contract that provides our associates with competitive wages and benefits, and quality, affordable health care."

Shaw's is owned by Boise, Idaho-based Albertsons, Inc., one of the country's biggest food and drug retailers.
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