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    Kroger Reaches Accord With Indiana Union

    INDIANAPOLIS - The Kroger Co. yesterday reached an agreement with the union representing 4,000 of its workers in this market, averting a strike while preserving health and pension benefits and boosting wages.

    INDIANAPOLIS - The Kroger Co. yesterday reached an agreement with the union representing 4,000 of its workers in this market, averting a strike while preserving health and pension benefits and boosting wages.

    Members of Local 700 of the United Food and Commercial Workers Union are scheduled to vote on the new contract tomorrow. Union leaders are recommending workers ratify the new contract. The proposal would end more than five months of labor negotiations in the Indianapolis area, where more than 63 percent of residents shop at Kroger. Union leaders recommend that the agreement be ratified.

    Kroger's Central Indiana Marketing Region issued a statement saying the contract would reward employees "for their contributions and hard work through an exceptional wage and benefits package," while allowing the chain to be positioned to "compete against tough, lower-cost competition."

    Cincinnati-based Kroger has said it needed concessions to fight strong competition from nonunion grocers -- chiefly Wal-Mart. The proposed contract would cover clerks and meat cutters at 58 stores in the Indianapolis area, while Local 700 members in Richmond and New Castle also will vote on a proposal to merge their contract into the broader Indianapolis pact.

    As part of the new contract, Kroger will be contributing additional money to the health insurance plan, along with improvements in health benefits for workers hired after November 1998, including higher short-term disability pay and added prescription drug benefits. Workers would also see an immediate wage increase of 25 cents to 40 cents an hour. Over the term of the contract, that could amount to increases ranging from $1.25 an hour to $4.95 an hour.

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