CARTERET, N.J. -- Pathmark Stores here will defend its practice of using signing bonuses to attract new pharmacists before the National Labor Relations Board next month, a company spokesman told SN.
The NLRB regional office in Newark, N.J., last week scheduled a hearing on a complaint brought against Pathmark by its union pharmacists. The United Pharmacists Guild of United Food and Commercial Workers Local 1000R charged that Pathmark violated its labor contract by issuing the $1,000 bonuses without first negotiating with the union.
"It's a clear violation of our collective bargaining agreement and we believe it's an unfair labor practice," Bill Wallace, president of the United Pharmacists, told SN last week.
According to Wallace, the union would like to see such bonuses negotiated so that all union members could benefit. He added that Pathmark had refused requests to bargain on the issue and continued to offer the benefits over the union's objections.
Pathmark has been offering signing bonuses to attract new hires because of heavy competition in the field, Rich Savner, a Pathmark spokesman, told SN.
"We used signing bonuses as a tool to attract new pharmacists in an area with a shortage of pharmacists," Savner said. "We have to adequately staff our stores. We don't want to be unable to open pharmacies in some stores or close existing ones."
Savner said the practice was "unusual" for a chain with union representation, but added that some of Pathmark's competitors in the area are also offering incentives to new hires. As to the union's request that the bonuses be negotiated and/or distributed differently, Savner said, "That's a bargaining issue we would have no comment on."
Savner added that Pathmark's signing bonus is "in limbo" until the hearing March 14. "We want to wait until this case is resolved before making a decision whether to continue it."
The Pharmacists Guild of Local 1000R, based in Greenbrook, N.J., represents 267 pharmacy professionals at Pathmark stores in New Jersey, Delaware and Pennsylvania. It's contract with Pathmark expires in June 2002.