Results on final offer to grocery workers expected Tuesday

December 14, 2009

Results from mail balloting by unionized Colorado grocery workers on last, best and final contract offers from King Soopers and Safeway are expected Tuesday, United Food and Commercial Workers International Union Local 7 said Monday.

The 52-month contract offer includes annual raises totaling $1.30 an hour for the highest-paid workers; signing bonuses of $150 to $1,000 in the form of gift cards paid upon ratification; $40 million in additional payments to an underfunded pension plan; reduced waiting periods to get medical benefits; and new preventive health care benefits. Negotiations began in April; workers from both chains as well as Albertsons, have been working without contracts for months.

Local 7 members began voting on the offer Nov. 26. Union members previously rejected several contract offers from all three chains and voted at least twice to authorize a strike against Safeway.

If no agreement is reached, an arbitrator is scheduled to begin hearing arguments Wednesday from the union and representatives from the three chains on whether to cut benefits and future accruals from the pension plan.

Any strike would be the first in the Colorado grocery industry since Local 7 staged a 42-day walkout against King Soopers in 1996, which triggered a lockout of union members by Safeway.

Both chains have agreed to lock out workers if the union goes on strike against the other. Albertsons is not part of that agreement. King Soopers and Safeway have been advertising since early May for temporary workers who would be hired only if the union calls a strike.

The union represents more than 1,700 members in the Colorado Springs area and more than 17,000 statewide.

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