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CINCINNATI - United Food and Commercial Workers Local 1099, representing about 8,500 employees at Kroger supermarkets in parts of Ohio, Kentucky, and Indiana, began negotiations with the company late last week for a new contract, and said it expects tough bargaining.
The current labor agreement, set to expire Oct. 9, covers about 70 Kroger stores in the Cincinnati area, Northern Kentucky, and Southeastern Indiana. According to published reports, Kroger wants to reduce health care and pension costs as it seeks to improve its competitive position in the market.
Leaders from Monroe, Ohio-based Local 1099 anticipate health care and pension matters will be key sticking points.
"These may well be the most difficult negotiations in our long history with Kroger," Lennie Wyatt, president of Local 1099, said in a statement, adding, "Remember, this is the same company that locked out 25,000 UFCW members in Southern California."
Days prior to the start of official talks between Kroger and Local 1099, the chain and UFCW Local 227 ratified a new four-year labor agreement covering approximately 10,000 Kroger employees in parts of Kentucky and Southern Indiana.
Kroger, which operators more than 2,500 stores in 32 states, says it lost $246 million in potential profits last year because of the Southern California strike and lockout, which ended in February.