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ST. LOUIS - St. Louis' three largest grocery chains began hiring replacement workers Thursday in case United Food and Commercial Workers Local 655 decides to strike next week, reports the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
Schnuck Markets Inc., Dierbergs Markets Inc. and Shop 'n Save Warehouse Foods Inc. had hired about 100 replacement workers by mid-day Thursday, according to Michael Kaemmerer, a spokesman for the Greater St. Louis Food Employers' Council.
The companies bought print ads, offering $12.50 an hour for full-time positions and $10 an hour for part-time jobs.
In a letter that ran with a full-page ad, the Food Employers' Council called the hirings a "precautionary measure."
"This does not mean a strike or lockout will occur," the letter said. "However, members of Local 655 recently rejected a union recommended contract offer, and a strike is possible. Our companies must now accelerate efforts to hire and train replacements in order to continue serving our customers."
In a statement, Local 655 officials criticized the move, saying the companies are paying temporary workers more than union members. They also said service at the chains would suffer because the temporary workers would get little training.
Kaemmerer said temporary workers would not receive any benefits, such as medical insurance and pensions, which make up a large portion of a union employee's total compensation.
The companies are looking mainly to fill customer-service positions, such as cashiers and clerks, Kaemmerer said.