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    Ohio Valley Kroger Associates OK Contract Extension

    Sides get four more weeks to work out alleged ‘errors’ in health benefits

    The Kroger Co. and associates at its Ohio Valley stores represented by United Food and Commercial Workers Local 23 have agreed to extend their current contract for another four weeks, allowing time to resolve what the union called errors in the Cincinnati-based grocer’s contract offer.

    “All companies, including ours, are facing rising health care costs. There were no errors in our proposal,” Kroger officials said in a statement. “What we have agreed to do with the union is to work with an outside consultant to review data and explore options. Our goal is to keep health care affordable for our associates and the company, too, so we can be competitive. Also, we provided additional financial compensation to our associates in our proposal in the form of lump sum payments each year over the next three years (life of the contract). We are committed to working with the union to resolve issues and get an agreement.”

    The extension allows Ohio Valley associates to work until Sept. 21, and on a day-by-day extension beyond that, StateJournal.com reported.

    Union members had voted by a 99 percent margin to reject a corporate offer made on Aug. 14, when 97 percent also voted to authorize a strike if no deal could be reached.

    “I’m relieved we have an extension to give us more time because we are certainly hopeful that once these errors are fixed an agreement can be reached, one that doesn’t undercut workers,” bargaining committee member Alesia Brogdon told StateJournal.com. “Kroger is important to the community, important to its employees, and we will do everything we can to come to a fair agreement.”

    Union officials claimed the latest contract offer contained no wage increases, and shifted thousands of dollars of health care costs onto individual employees.

    Meanwhile, UFCW members of locals representing 62,000 grocery store workers in Southern California have voted to authorize a strike if a deal can’t be reached with supermarket chains owned by Kroger, Safeway and Supervalu. Lengthy contract negotiations for associates in that region are expected to resume Monday, with health care coverage being the main bone of contention.

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