Stop & Shop
Updated: Sunday, 07 Mar 2010, 9:04 PM EST
Published : Sunday, 07 Mar 2010, 8:48 PM EST
PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) - Supermarket workers at Stop & Shop in southern New England ratified a contract Sunday, ending weeks of difficult negotiations over wages and benefits.
Members of five locals of the United Food and Commercial Workers Union in Rhode Island, Massachusetts and Connecticut approved the three-year contract by overwhelming margins in voice votes, union officials said.
"Our members were very, very happy with the agreement," said Jim Riley, secretary-treasurer of Local 328 in Providence. "These were the most difficult negotiations in my life. The company held the line. It's very profitable, but they had concerns about costs, they felt labor costs are too high."
The Quincy, Mass.-based Stop & Shop said in a statement that its goal was to reach fair agreements that will allow it to continue to provide good jobs and serve its customers."We are pleased to have met this goal with these ratified agreements," the company said.
Stop & Shop operates more than 350 supermarkets in Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Connecticut, New York, New Hampshire and New Jersey.
During negotiations, Stop & Shop said compensation that includes wages, health and pension benefits by nonunion competitors is substantially less than what it pays. The company said it operates in an "increasingly competitive and changing industry," with groceries sold at Wal-Mart, Target and other retailers in addition to supermarkets.
Of the top 10 New England food retailers, only Stop & Shop is entirely unionized, the company said. Brian Petronella, president of Local 371 in Connecticut, said the contract, which takes effect retroactively to Feb. 21 when the previous agreement expired, maintains a pension plan and keeps a health plan intact with full-time workers paying slightly more for health care.
Employees will receive a lump sum ranging from $100 to $750 depending on full- or part-time status and years of service. Employees also will receive scheduled hourly and weekly wage increases between now and the end of the contract in 2013.
Meat cutters who are paid $30 an hour now will make more than $31 by the end of the contract, while newly hired clerks making $14 an hour will be paid more than $15 an hour by 2013.
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