Stop & Shop-UFCW Talks Hit Snag

United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local 342, which represents more than 1,100 meat, deli and seafood department employees at Stop & Shop Supermarkets in New York City and Long Island, said that it was committed to negotiating with the grocery chain’s parent company, Amsterdam-based Ahold, despite what the union described as threatened lockouts, the implementation of concessions that would prevent its members from being able to afford to shop where they work, the disruption of Hurricane Sandy-ravaged communities, and “other anti-union tactics designed to circumvent American labor laws.”

Local 342 aims “to stay focused on bargaining in good faith to reach an agreement without a disruption to the business or the communities where our members live, work, and raise their children,” despite the fact that Ahold “has hired a union avoidance firm to conduct their provocative, bullying labor relations.”

One particular bone of contention is health care benefits, agreement on which is hampered by the new Affordable Care Act, whose untested final regulations will have to be carefully reviewed by employees and unions alike.

“Despite more than 18 months of negotiations, Stop & Shop has been unable to reach agreement on a new contract with UFCW Local 342,” a spokeswoman for the Fairfield, Conn.-based Stop & Shop New York Metro Division told Progressive Grocer. “As a result, we have provided a ‘Last, Best and Final’ offer to the union’s leadership -- the first time Stop & Shop has had to take this approach with any union in the New York area.”

Local 342 has taken exception to this offer, which it claimed includes lower employee health care benefits, higher employee deductibles, proposed wage increases that won’t offset the true increased cost of the company health care proposal, and part-time workers’ hours slashed in retaliation for changes in American health care law.

“Currently, the economic climate in Europe is much worse than the United States, which causes the large profits from Ahold’s American operations to be needed to sustain their businesses in Europe,” said Local 342, adding that its members “are very disappointed that the company has decided to attempt to make blue-collar American workers pay for circumstances beyond their control, and far removed from our communities here in New York.”

“Our goal is to reach a fair and reasonable resolution that ultimately benefits our associates, their families and our customers,” the Stop & Shop spokeswoman said, noting that the chain’s stores in the area were “fully staffed, secure and remain open for business as usual.”

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