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CHARLESTON, W. Va. - The Kroger Co. and the United Food and Commercial Workers Local 400 have tentatively agreed to a new labor contract at a federal mediator's request.
The pact, which will be presented to Kroger employees for a vote to end a two-month strike this Thursday, will cover 3,300 workers in West Virginia, Ohio and Kentucky.
Negotiators worked out an agreement Sunday and Monday, said Jim Lowthers, president of UFCW Local 400. Although he declined to discuss details of the agreement, Lowthers acknowledged that health care was the primary hurdle that needed to be resolved.
Union workers have been off the job since Oct. 13, when contract talks with the Cincinnati-based retailer fell apart.
Kroger issued the following statement regarding the ongoing labor dispute affecting 44 stores in the West Virginia area: "Through the offices of federal mediation, the parties have reached an understanding concerning issues surrounding the work stoppage that will be presented to the employees on Thursday, December 11, for their vote."
Separately, Kroger reported that its total sales for the third quarter of fiscal 2003 increased 3.8 percent to $12.1 billion, including stores affected by the labor disputes. On this basis, identical food-store sales, including fuel, increased 0.2 percent and, excluding fuel, decreased 0.6 percent.
Excluding stores affected by labor disputes, same-store food sales, including fuel, increased 1.3 percent. On this basis, identical food-store sales, excluding fuel, increased 0.4 percent. Kroger estimates that product cost inflation, including fuel, was 1.7 percent and, excluding fuel, was 1.5 percent.
The company said net earnings for the quarter ended Nov. 9 were $110.2 million, or $0.15 per diluted share, and estimates that the ongoing labor disputes affecting stores in southern California and the West Virginia area reduced earnings by $0.12 per diluted share during the quarter. Premiums paid on debt repurchases reduced earnings by $0.01 per diluted share.
"We are pleased with our sales performance in the third quarter, especially in light of the current operating environment," said David B. Dillon, Kroger's c.e.o. "In the fourth quarter to date, our identical food-store sales, excluding fuel and the effect of the labor disputes, are running slightly ahead of our results for the third quarter."