MODESTO, Calif. — Just a few days before employees began voting last week on whether to accept a new contract offer or authorize a strike, Save Mart Supermarkets  here said it has demoted approximately 150 senior clerks in the Sacramento area, cutting their hourly pay from $21 to $16.
According to a company statement, “Our contract negotiated in 2007 has a required ratio of senior clerk to clerk positions. As a result of store closures and current economic conditions, we found our ratios in Sacramento to be well above the contractual requirement.
“We recently corrected this ratio in Fresno and Merced as a result of other store closures and conversions. Now, with the recent closure in Sacramento on June 15, we are performing the same correction.”
Company officials could not be reached to specify the number of closures and/or conversions in any of the three markets.
In a separate development, employees of Save Mart and its Lucky Stores subsidiary were voting last week on the company’s “last, best and final” offer on contracts that expired last October.
The leadership of United Food and Commercial Workers Union Local 5 recommended its members reject the offer and vote to authorize a strike.
“Throughout this process the union has been willing to work with the company to stabilize its economic position in the market and preserve good middle-class jobs for our members,” said Ron Lind, president of the local. “The union’s proposals included short-term cost savings that would have addressed the company’s market-share issues.
“The company refused to agree to a common-sense approach. ... Consequently the union has called for a strike vote to get it to deal with these issues in a realistic manner.”
A union spokesman said talks were continuing last week with Safeway, Pleasanton, Calif.; however, no negotiations were scheduled with Raley’s, West Sacramento, Calif., whose contract was being extended on a day-to-day basis following a previous strike authorization vote by its employees.