GREAT FALLS, Mont. — Two Montana-based locals of United Food and Commercial Workers Union are confident they can return to the bargaining table with Albertsons right after Labor Day and hammer out a satisfactory agreement after the two sides have been unable to reach a settlement in the 10 months since the previous contract expired, according to Sarah Thrody, president of Local 8 here. Members of her local and Local 4, based in Butte, voted to reject a "last and best" offer from Albertsons last week by a 97% margin, she told SN. She said the union has set a deadline of Friday, Sept. 7, for a final offer. "If we determine that offer is in the best interests of our members, we will recommend they ratify it," Thrody said. "But if we feel it still falls short on health and welfare, which is the biggest concern right now, then we will probably give them a strike deadline." On health and welfare, Thrody said Albertsons has proposed putting in only a percentage of the necesssary costs cited by actuaries, "which will be enough for the first two years, but by the middle of the third year and into the fourth, we would start deficit spending." The negotiations involve a mix of grocery, nonfood and meat contracts at Albertsons and Kroger stores around the state, as well as at some smaller operators, that expired Oct. 30, 2006. According to Thrody, Kroger withdrew from the talks in January and agreed to accept whatever contract Albertsons negotiates, explaining that with only one contract open with Local 8 and none with Local 4, it was too costly to keep traveling around Montana.
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