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Safeway, Vons reach labor accord in Northern/Central California

UFCW locals say sides “remain far apart” in Southern California talks

Albertsons Cos.’ Safeway and Vons supermarkets in Northern and Central California have come to a tentative agreement with United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local 8-Golden State.

Roseville, Calif.-based UFCW 8 said Tuesday evening that the three-year pact includes improved funding of pension benefits plus enhanced health care benefits with no employee premiums, as well as “meaningful” wage increases.

“At the bargaining table, we were able to build on the key achievements of decades of union solidarity,” UFCW 8 President Jacques Loveall said in a statement. “This contract is one of our best ever, a big win for union members.”

Details of the accord are being withheld pending union members’ ratification of the proposed contract. UFCW 8 said it expects to release results of the vote in mid-August.

“Safeway is pleased to announce that we have reached a tentative agreement in our union contract negotiations with United Food and Commercial Workers 8-Golden State, one of the largest UFCW locals representing the employees in many of our Northern California (Safeway) and Central California (Vons) stores,” Safeway/Vons said in a statement. “The union has agreed to fully recommend this tentative agreement to our employees for their acceptance and ratification in the coming weeks.”

A division of Albertsons Cos., Safeway Northern California operates more than 280 stores across in Northern California, Nevada and Hawaii. 

Meanwhile, Pleasanton, Calif.-based Safeway/Vons said talks are continuing with UFCW Locals 5 and 648, which represent the rest of the grocery chains’ employees in Northern California.

“The company remains committed to also reaching an agreement with these locals that will provide our employees with a competitive compensation package that includes good wages, maintains their affordable health care and provides for their retirement while, at the same time, continuing to keep our company strong in the very competitive Northern California grocery market,” Safeway/Vons stated.

UFCW 5 said discussions with Safeway, which resumed yesterday, have made little headway since the last round of bargaining in late June. “While we remain hopeful that our July sessions will result in an amicable agreement that meets the expectations of our members, the process cannot continue with little to show after eight months of bargaining. Absent significant progress in July, your bargaining committee intends to plan for a strike authorization vote,” UFCW 5 commented in its latest update to members.

UFCW 648 said in its most recent update that it was awaiting a negotiation meeting date from Safeway and that members continue to work under a contract extension.

UFCW 8 noted that negotiations also are ongoing with other supermarket retailers in the region: The Save Mart Cos. (including the Save Mart, Lucky, FoodMaxx and Maxx Value banners) and Raley’s (including the Raley’s, Bel Air Markets, Nob Hill Foods and Food Source banners). Talks with Raley’s are scheduled to resume in the coming weeks, while progress in negotiations with Save Mart have been slow, with health care a sticking point in the discussions with both retailers, the union reported.

In Southern California, UFCW 8 is among seven union locals — also including UFCW 770, 324, 1167, 135, 1428 and 1442 — that voted in late June to authorize a strike at more than 500 Ralphs, Albertsons, Vons and Pavilions supermarkets. The move gives union leaders the authority to call a strike against the tores if negotiations fail to progress. In the latest round of talks, July 10 to 12, the sides appears to edge closer to that outcome.

“Negotiations wrapped up this week with discussions on how the companies’ proposals will impact your healthcare and wages. And while we exchanged proposals across the table, we remain far apart on major issues. Simply put, their proposals are an insult to anyone who believes that one good job should be enough,” the UFCW locals said in a statement. “It is disappointing that these companies continue to undervalue your knowledge, skills and service to the customers that makes them successful.”

Negotiations pick up again July 17 and run to July 19. Another round of bargaining has been scheduled for July 29 and 30 and Aug. 1.

The seven UFCW locals represent some 46,000 grocery workers in Southern California, who have worked under a contract extension since the original three-year pact expired March 3. According to the unions, the retailers have proposed below-cost-of-living wage hikes of less than 1% and a 25% reduction of cashier wages, and workers are concerned about health care benefits funding.

Ralphs is part of The Kroger Co., while Albertsons, Vons and Pavilions are Albertsons Cos. grocery retail banners.

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