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    Giant Eagle, Union Ink Three-Year Pact

    PITTSBURGH, Pa. -- Giant Eagle Inc. and United Food and Commercial Workers Local 23 ratified a new three-year contract covering 5,100 clerks, and deli and meat counter personnel in 36 stores.

    PITTSBURGH, Pa. -- Giant Eagle Inc. and United Food and Commercial Workers Local 23 ratified a new three-year contract covering 5,100 clerks, and deli and meat counter personnel in 36 stores.

    The parties hammered out the deal over the course of one month and seven bargaining sessions. Clerks voted in favor of the pact 702-149, while the pro vote was 211 vs. 112 among meat and deli workers. The new pact, voted on Sunday and Monday, covers employees in three Pennsylvania counties and one county in West Virginia.

    A Giant Eagle spokesman was not immediately available to comment on the settlement. Daniel Shapira, the special counsel to Western Pennsylvania's dominant grocery chain, was quoted in local press reports as saying: "This is the best offer made in the history of Giant Eagle. We are doing well in terms of productivity and maintaining market share, and much of our success is due to our outstanding employees."

    Local labor leaders also praised the new deal. "We realize that to keep giant Eagle, profitable, competitive and strong keeps our people working," said UFCW Local 23 president Ron Lenhart.

    Among the agreement's specifics:
    Employees with at least three years of service will receive a $1.15 an hour wage increase over the life of the contract as well as additional premiums for key positions. In a bid to encourage good customer service, Giant Eagle will be able to offer employee incentives, such as individual raises and discounts on products.

    Employees will continue to enjoy not paying for health insurance, an expense that costs the company between $300 and $800 per month per employee, according to Lenhart and Shapira. Enhancements were made to dental and vision coverage and life insurance.

    Increased pension contributions, including 17 cents an hour for clerks and up to 17 cents an hour for deli and meat personnel, are also part of the deal.

    The company and union are currently in active discussions concerning the chain's new Giant Eagle Express format stores.

    In other Giant Eagle news, a closed LeNature's Inc. bottling plant in Latrobe, Pa., could be sold to chain in a court-approved auction on Aug. 9, attorneys said this week in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Pittsburgh.

    According to published reports, Giant Eagle is close to obtaining the plant.

    "We are evaluating the LeNature's opportunity," a Giant Eagle spokesman was quoted as saying.

    Giant Eagle bid $20 million for the water-and-tea bottling plant, which was shut down on Nov. 13 and officially closed in December.

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