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WEST BRIDGEWATER, Mass. - The rejection of Shaw's Supermarket's "final best offer" by members of the United Food and Commercial Workers Local 791 on Sunday didn't disrupt normal business hours Monday as the company and labor leaders continued negotiations with a federal mediator, according to published reports.
Some 6,000 unionized workers at 39 Shaw's Supermarkets in southeastern Massachusetts and Rhode Island and a distribution center in Maine overwhelmingly rejected a contract proposed Aug. 1 by Albertsons' newly acquired subsidiary. The 81 percent vote to reject the proposal and authorize a strike increased the possibility of a walkout this week.
The vote also authorized a strike if an agreement is not reached, according to a UFCW Local 791 spokesman, who said the contract negotiations "are not about what the members want, but what is being taken away from them."
A statement issued by Shaw's spokesman Terry Donilon said: "Shaw's has put on the table a very generous offer that provides associates affordable, quality health care; the ability to choose a health care plan that best meets their needs and the needs of their families; and a very competitive wage package. This proposal would ensure that Local 791 associates would remain among the best compensated in the industry in New England."
Among the sticking points of the proposal, which members were reportedly opposed to generally across the board, were low wages below industry standards, health insurance costs, and the level of benefits and elimination of contract language that is beneficial to union members.
The vote found 1,214 members casting ballots to reject the three-year contract offer and authorize a strike, while 197 voted to ratify the proposal.
Shaw's, owned by Boise, Idaho-based Albertsons, Inc., one of the nation's largest food and drug retailers, says its costs for the union's health care plan for the 39 stores have risen more than 60 percent in the last three years.
The union has said the company's original proposal would result in a 27 percent reduction in benefits and shift thousands of dollars to employee insurance co-pays without increasing wages.