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CINCINNATI - Members of the union representing about 8,500 cashiers, baggers and meat, produce and deli clerks at 70 Kroger stores in three states ratified a three-year contract that provides wages and benefits that company officials said will make Kroger more competitive on labor costs with other retailers in the market.
The new agreement, which includes wage increases, bonuses, additional pension contributions and modest employee contributions toward health care premiums, "represents a balanced solution that provides Kroger associates with the high-quality health care and good wages they need, at a cost that will make Kroger more competitive and their jobs more secure," said Bob Hodge, president of Kroger’s Cincinnati/Dayton Division.
"The negotiation process was challenging, but through it all, union and company representatives demonstrated their commitment to do what is best for our associates and our customers. Our people are the best in the business, and we look forward to building a successful, secure future together," Hodge said.
Union officials were less sunny about the outcome. The union said it was ratified by 68 percent of those voting, but declined to say how many votes were cast. "Kroger should not kid itself about the results of [the] vote," Lennie Wyatt, president of United Food and Commercial Workers Union Local 1099, said in a statement after voting wrapped up Wednesday. "This contract was ratified for one reason and one reason only - there simply was no workable alternative at this time. In a down economy and during a national health care crisis, a strike seemed a worse alternative."
Under terms of the new deal, employees will begin contributing toward their monthly health care premiums beginning Jan. 1. Single employees will contribute $5 a week, employees with children will contribute $10 a week and employees with spouses or families will contribute $15 a week.
The previous five-year contract expired Oct. 9, but both sides agreed to extend the deal as they resolved issues of wages, pension and health care coverage. Union members had voted to authorize a strike if necessary to prod the company's negotiators, although no work stoppage occurred.