DENVER -- Union workers at Kroger-owned King Soopers and City Market stores in Colorado have approved a new labor contract that reduces pay and benefits for employees, a spokesman for the workers said last week.
The pact covers more than 7,000 members of United Food and Commercial Workers Local 7 here. Although the union supported the contract, the local bargaining committee did not. The new contract was approved with 60% in favor and 40% opposed after seven months of negotiations.
As expected, Safeway, Pleasanton, Calif., and Albertsons, Boise, Idaho, last week offered similar contracts to their workers in Colorado and Wyoming.
The new contracts were drafted by Scot Beckenbaugh, acting director of the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service, Washington, at the request of the chains and the workers. Under terms of the pacts, employees will now be required to pay for health insurance coverage -- $5 per week for employees, $10 for employees and their spouses or children, and $15 for families -- and the companies will reduce their contributions to the jointly administered health care funds, the union spokesman told SN. In addition, new hires will receive pay increases at a slower pace.
For example, under the old contracts, a clerk working 40 hours per week and starting at $9.13 per hour would advance to the "journeyman" pay rate of $15.66 per hour in about two years. The new contracts call for clerks to start at the same entry-level wage of $9.13, but it will take more than three years to advance to the top wage of $15.66. Because the increases are based on actual hours worked, clerks who log 20 hours per week would take twice as long to advance.
Ballots were scheduled to be mailed late last week to Safeway workers, and a vote count is scheduled for March 26. The contract has been expanded to cover about 7,200 workers at that chain, as stores in western Colorado and Wyoming have been combined with those in eastern Colorado.
The worker bargaining team was planning to give a weak endorsement. "In view of the Kroger membership's ratification of the offer, the negotiating team believes we cannot strike," said a prepared statement that was to be mailed with the ballots. "Even if we strike, we will not be able to make the [Safeway] offer better. The pattern has been established."