Monday, October 11, 1999

Kroger contract settled

Agreement averts strike in Tristate

The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Union officials and the Kroger Co. averted a strike by reaching a tentative contract agreement early today.

        Union officials said Kroger agreed to pay raises and improved health benefits for workers at no extra cost to the employees.

        “We're very happy with the agreement, and we also think it keeps the company competitive,” said John Marrone, spokesman for United Food and Commercial Workers Union Local 1099.

        Mr. Marrone declined to discuss the specifics of the agreement before Kroger employees had a chance review the details.

        Although both sides signed off on the deal, the 8,500 union members who were poised to strike must approve the proposed five-year contract with a vote. That could happen as soon as Wednesday, Mr. Marrone said.

        Kroger officials could not be reached for comment.

        Late Sunday, the union was awaiting clarifications from Kroger on a contract proposal they submitted to Kroger officials earlier in the evening.

        Intense talks between the union and the nation's largest grocery chain had continued on- and-off with a federal mediator since Saturday morning.

        The contract covers most Kroger store employees — including baggers, cashiers, stockers, and meat, dairy and produce workers — in 67 Tristate stores. The prvious contract expired midnight Saturday, but workers stayed on the job. Pharmacy, photo lab and other non-food employees have a separate contract.

        Negotiators, working through a federal mediator, broke for sleep after the deadline passed Saturday night and resumed talks Sunday afternoon.

        Key union demands had included pay raises over a four-year period of $2.40 for department heads, $2.20 for assistants and $2 for most other employees. The union also wanted better health insurance at affordable rates and more full-time positions with full-time benefits. The employees make between $5.25 and $16 an hour.

        Mr. Marrone said the pay raise amounts changed slightly in the agreement, but he would not elaborate. Kroger, he said, agreed to the other demands.

        Union members voted overwhelmingly to strike last week after rejecting a contract offer from Kroger. Kroger had offered a four-year plan for raises of $1.50 for department heads, $1.20 for assistants and $1 for most other employees.

        The Associated Press contributed to this report.


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