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Workers at Giant Eagle and Heinen's stores in Northeast Ohio began voting Tuesday on three-year contracts that would raise wages while maintaining health care and pension benefits.
The contracts, retroactive to Sept. 14, cover some 9,700 employees in 111 supermarkets. Workers will vote in their stores through Friday.
Terms of the agreements, negotiated separately with both Heinen's and Giant Eagle's clerks, meat and deli workers respectively, were previously unanimously recommended by the negotiating committee of the United Food and Commercial Workers Union Local 880.
A letter to members by UFCW Local 880 officials called the agreements "excellent in light of the adverse conditions that we are all facing during these difficult times," including competition from other retailers such as Wal-Mart and other non-union operators, according to local press reports.
Highlights of the new Giant Eagle and Heinen's labor contracts include:
i Clerks and cashiers whose wages now range from $7 to $13.05 per hour, would receive minimum hourly raises of 40 cents now, 40 cents in 2009 and 35 cents in 2010.
i Produce managers, whose wages range from $17.16 to $18.31 per hour, would receive hourly raises of 50 cents now, 50 cents in 2009 and 45 cents in 2010.
i Head dairy clerks, whose wages range from $16.13 to $16.75, would receive hourly raises of 50 cents now, 50 cents in 2009 and 45 cents in 2010.
i Part-time grocery clerks, who make from $7 to $8.85 per hour, would receive hourly raises of 40 cents now, 25 cents in 2009 and 25 cents in 2010.
i Giant Eagle and Heinen's will pay more toward their workers' health care plans, with no contributions from employees.
i Heinen's and Giant Eagle will contribute to employees' pension funds. While pension benefits accrued so far are protected, future accrual rates will be reduced after Jan. 1 because of a change in the pension law.
i Meat department heads, whose wages range from $17.47 to $18.62 per hour, would get hourly raises of 50 cents now, 50 cents in 2009 and 45 cents in 2010.
i Head deli clerks, who make between $14.98 and $16.13 per hour, would get hourly raises of 50 cents now, 50 cents in 2009 and 45 cents in 2010.
i Heinen's and Giant Eagle will continue to contribute to their workers' healthcare and pension plans with no employee contributions toward healthcare.