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    Kroger Employees Ratify New Contract in West Virginia

    CINCINNATI - A new labor contract covering employees at 44 stores in West Virginia, Ohio and Kentucky was ratified on Thursday, ending a nearly two-month work stoppage, the Kroger Co. announced.

    CINCINNATI - A new labor contract covering employees at 44 stores in West Virginia, Ohio and Kentucky was ratified on Thursday, ending a nearly two-month work stoppage, the Kroger Co. announced.

    Union officials told the Associated Press that the contract, which included improved health care benefits, was approved 962-717. Kroger did not release details about the contract.

    "We are extremely pleased to have a new contract in place so that our employees can return to work and we can begin serving our customers again," said Pete Williams, president of Kroger's Mid-Atlantic Marketing Area. "With the holiday season in full swing, we have a lot of work ahead of us. We're looking forward to welcoming back our employees."

    Kroger said it plans to begin recalling workers immediately and has begun scheduling deliveries of fresh product to stores for this morning. Twelve fuel centers that had been closed during the work stoppage will re-open today. Pharmacies, which had remained open for business during the labor dispute, will return to normal operating hours on Sunday.

    Three stores will not be re-opened. Those stores are located in Gauley Bridge, W. Va.; Pomeroy, Ohio; and Gallipolis, Ohio.

    "As we said before the work stoppage began, Kroger would re-open as many stores as we believe we can economically operate. Unfortunately, the impact of the strike, combined with the projected cost of restocking, does not make it economically feasible for us to re-open these three stores," said Williams.
    Employees in those three stores may exercise their seniority rights to transfer to other Kroger stores.

    Kroger pharmacies in Pomeroy and Gallipolis will remain open indefinitely until customer prescription files are transferred to other pharmacies.

    Under the new contract, Kroger employees will continue to be the highest compensated supermarket workers in West Virginia, according to the company. Williams said the agreement also allows Kroger to manage its overall costs.

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