You are here
CLEMENTON, N.J., Oct. 3 /PRNewswire/ -- ShopRite announced today that the revised contract proposal they had presented to UFCW Local 1360 was rejected without review by union membership. The contracts between ShopRite and the Local expired in March/April and the parties continued to operate under an extension while they negotiated. On September 6, 2001 the union called for a work stoppage.
The Ravitz and Zallie families have operated stores under the ShopRite banner in the region for more than 30 years. The 10 ShopRite stores involved in the contract negotiations are located in Burlington, Camden and Gloucester counties.
``We have always negotiated in good faith, so we took the initiative to present a revised proposal at this time,'' commented George Zallie, Sr., CEO of Zallie Supermarkets, Inc. ShopRite negotiators presented their revised proposal in a meeting with Union President Clay Bowman on Monday, October 1st. The union had not countered either of ShopRite's last two economic proposals.
The wage proposal presented in the revised contract is identical to the industry settlement negotiated and ratified by Local 1360 that is in place at national chains Acme (Albertson's), Super Fresh (A&P) and Super G (Ahold); the three largest employers represented by Local 1360. ``If the wage proposal was adequate for that contract negotiation, then it should be adequate for ShopRite,'' stated Steven Ravitz, president, Supermarkets of Cherry Hill, Inc.
``With respect to the Health and Welfare coverage, the revised proposal addresses a key concern expressed by union leadership and our Associates,'' stated Mr. Ravitz. ``The union asked for a guarantee that their benefits would be maintained without co-pays for the life of the contract. This proposal accomplishes exactly that.'' While confident that the original proposal would have achieved the same goal, the new proposal meets the demand for a ``guarantee'' which was allegedly a primary tenent of the union's decision to strike.
``By choosing an employer-sponsored plan, instead of one managed by the union's Tri-State Health and Welfare Fund, we can guarantee our Associates that their benefits will be maintained throughout the duration of their contract without any co-payments,'' stated George Zallie, Sr.
A major competitor, Pathmark, whose Associates are also represented by Local 1360, is an example of an operator in the region which has maintained an employer-sponsored plan for over 15 years. Another contributing factor in ShopRite's proposal to withdraw from the Tri-State Health and Welfare Fund is that the fund had seen a huge decrease in the level of its reserves potentially leaving it
unable to meet its liabilities. The decrease in reserves is the result of a collective bargaining agreement between Local 1360 and Acme, Super Fresh and Super G, the three largest participants in the fund. The union eventually sued these participants to recover some of their losses. In addition, ShopRite has no representation on the fund's trustee board, leaving it with no voice in how the fund
is managed. ``With a company sponsored plan we'll be able to protect our Associates' benefits for today and in the future,'' commented Mr. Zallie.
Additionally, ShopRite has proposed having the option to move the pension fund, also administered by Tri-State, to the Regional Pension Fund for many of the same reasons. This fund currently serves union members from several locals, including Local 1358, Atlantic City; Local 27, Delaware and Local 1360. Local 1360 already has representation in the Regional Pension Fund and will continue to do so. Tri-State's pension fund reserves were severely depleted, when as part of a contract deal, Local
1360 waived contributions for three of the fund's largest participants for a 12-month period.
When asked to comment on the duration of the strike and when it might draw to a conclusion Karen Meleta, speaking on behalf of ShopRite commented: ``This is a strike that should have never happened. The original proposal was generous and fair and in the best interest of our Associates.''
The original wage offer was significantly better than the industry settlement and included retroactive wage payments. The original offer clearly stated that these incentives were designed to avoid a work stoppage and would be withdrawn in the event of a strike. Unfortunately both ShopRite and their Associates will suffer economic hardship as a result of this prolonged work stoppage. The only persons who will not suffer any financial loss are Mr. Bowman and his staff. They still receive their full salaries during the strike.
Another strike led by Mr. Bowman's Local 1360 against Dunkin Donut's Mid-Atlantic Distribution Center in Swedesboro, New Jersey has continued since June 1, 2001
without any end in sight. It is reported that many of those striking workers have returned to work without a contract.
ShopRite supermarkets are independently owned and operated and are members of Wakefern Food Corporation, a retailer-owned cooperative. Other ShopRite members in Atlantic, Cumberland and Ocean counties recently saw the overwhelming ratification of another contract by UFCW Local 1358. Over 90% of Local 1358 members voted in favor of that ShopRite proposal without a work stoppage of any kind, contrary to Mr. Bowman's public assertion that the union had struck for one week