Acme Markets and the union representing workers at its Philadelphia-area stores on Saturday agreed to extend their labor contract for 60 days, after the chain had threatened to terminate the pact over a healthcare dispute.


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United Food and Commercial Workers Local 1776 said in a message on its website that despite the extension, the two sides are "no closer" to reaching an agreement. The local has called a meeting Monday for its members, who have been working under terms of a contract that was to have expired more than two years ago.

Acme, a division of Boise, Idaho-based New Albertsons Inc., cited the need to bargain for a planned increase in its obligation to a multiemployer employee benefit fund. The company stressed that would maintain the same pay rates and conditions as it currently offers employees, and that it was looking forward to continuing negotiations on a new contract.

"After careful consideration, we provided Local 1776 with notice of the cancellation of the expired contract because of the risk under the contract of healthcare cost increases which we believe need to be negotiated as part of the collective bargaining process rather than unilaterally implemented on the parties," Chris Wilcox, a spokeswoman for Albertsons, told SN before the contract was extended. "We provide and will continue to provide some of the best healthcare coverage in the nation to our associates, but need to work with the union to craft provisions that work in today’s healthcare environment."

Acme said associates in Local 1776 had healthcare costs that were 25% to 100% higher than four other union locals that represent Acme workers and 400% higher than the national average.

The union in the meantime said Acme has failed to make required contributions to the welfare fund. According to court documents, the fund’s trustees determined that projected health claims would require employers to contribute the maximum 10% increase for the plan year beginning May 1 last year. Trustees said Acme owed the plan more than $1.6 million as of December.

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