Grocery strike averted with tentative deal - East Valley Tribune: News

Grocery strike averted with tentative deal

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Posted: Friday, November 13, 2009 6:30 am | Updated: 3:02 am, Sat Oct 8, 2011.

There won't be a strike at Safeway and Fry's Food Stores after all. The United Food and Commercial Workers Union Local 99, Safeway Stores, and Kroger Co., the owner of Fry's and Smith's, have reached a tentative settlement on a new collective bargaining agreement, the parties said early Friday morning. 

There won't be a strike at Safeway and Fry's Food Stores after all.

The United Food and Commercial Workers Union Local 99, Safeway Stores, and Kroger Co., the owner of Fry's and Smith's, have reached a tentative settlement on a new collective bargaining agreement, the parties said early Friday morning.

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The 11th-hour agreement was reached late Thursday and will be submitted to union members in the coming weeks for ratification, they said.

In the meantime stores will continue normal operations with unionized employees performing their usual duties under their existing contract, they said.

The two sides declined to publicly release the terms of the proposed three-year pact before employees have had a chance to review and vote on it.

The companies had been facing a 6 p.m. Friday deadline set by the union to reach an agreement or the 25,000 UFCW members at the chains in Arizona had threatened to walk out.

The previous labor agreement expired in October 2008, but the union members had continued to work under the old contract while the two sides negotiated for 13 months over a new agreement.

The union and companies had disagreed over funding of health insurance, with the union insisting that the companies continue to pay the entire premium costs and the companies wanting newly hired employees to start contributing $5 to $15 a week.

Spokespersons for the two sides declined to say how that issue was resolved.

"It's great that all parties were able to reach a tentative agreement and that it can go before the employees and that we will have our own people in Fry's stores throughout the ratification process," said Fry's spokeswoman Meghan Glynn.

She said job offers to temporary replacement workers the company had been hiring as a precaution against a strike will no longer be valid.

"That was part of the agreement, that in the event of a settlement the offers are no longer on the table," she said.

Although members voted in September to authorize a strike, there were widespread reports as the deadline approached that workers were unhappy about the prospect of a walkout right before the holiday season and during an economic recession. Some employees had demonstrated at UCFW Local 99 headquarters in Phoenix against a strike.

In a statement to members posted on the UFCW99.com Web site, union leaders said they were "proud" that a strike had been averted.

"We know that this has been a tense and difficult time for you and your families," the statement said. "It is because your strength, your support and your united stand with your union that we were able to avert a strike and bring you a contract that you can work under with pride."

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