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Raley's Plans to Implement New Contract

WEST SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Raley’s here said its management plans to implement the terms of its “last, best and final” contract offer on Thursday, claiming the United Food and Commercial Workers Union has denied employees the opportunity to vote on the offer for the past three weeks — a move that could precipitate a strike.

Jacques Loveall, president of UFCW Local 8-Golden State, said Monday his members have begun assembling picket signs "for a possible labor dispute with Raley's."

Noting the the Raley's contract "imposes unacceptable concessions on its union workers," Loveall said, "Unfortunately Raley's irrational and erratic negotiating tactics threaten to take the company off a cliff."

The union received strike authorization from its members last spring. However, despite the strike preparations, Loveall said Local 8 "is prepared to begin a dialogue at any time to reach a settlement worthy of recommendation to the membership."

Representatives of UFCW Local 5 could not be reached for comment.

In a letter to employees last Friday, Michael Teel, president and chief executive officer of Raley's, said, "It is not possible to put into words how frustrating it is for me to know that you are being denied a chance to decide on your own. I believe our contract proposal is a very good offer ... much better than the Save Mart deal," which was finalized in September. "Know that Raley's did not want to implement our final offer. But if the union is not going to allow you to vote, we cannot continue to suffer economic harm and be forced to close more stores."

Teel said the new contract will take effect Nov. 1. Under its terms, the contract will run for three years from October 2012, with a two-year wage freeze and a wage re-opener in the third year. It will also eliminate Sunday and holiday premiums, though, in contrast with the Save Mart contract, it will not eliminate one week of paid vacation nor will it eliminate four paid holidays, Raley's said.

Read more: Board OKs Save Mart Contract

The contract also offers employees the same health and welfare plan as other union employees at Raley's, which includes maintenance of current benefits for two years; a pre-65 retiree health and welfare component; a sick-leave plan; and a re-opener after two years. However, Teel said Raley's will not implement those terms "at this time" — presumably to allow the UFCW to work on a new plan design that cannot be completed until Save Mart, Safeway and Raley's have all signed a new contract.

Safeway is continuing to negotiate with the union for a successor agreement to the contract that expired in October 2011. Employees at Modesto, Calif.-based Save Mart who are represented by UFCW Local 8 approved a new agreement during the summer, while the executive board of UFCW Local 5 opted to ratify the same agreement on its own in early September on behalf of the Save Mart workers it represents.

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