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Wegmans Food Markets Inc. has assured the public, “We care about our employees and would never do anything to hurt them,” in regard to picketing last week at its Rochester, N.Y., corporate headquarters by members of the Teamsters Union Local 118 and the status of ongoing Teamsters contract negotiations.
According to the Northeast regional grocery chain, “Wegmans and the Teamsters Union, which represents almost 900 of our Rochester distribution and transportation employees, have been negotiating a new contract for six months. Agreement has been reached on all issues except retirement and the wage package. There has been a three-week break from negotiations, but bargaining will resume [this] week, Monday through Friday.”
Wegmans explained that it “proposed to replace the New York State Teamsters Conference Pension and Retirement Fund (Teamsters Fund) with our own retirement plan, which covers all other eligible Wegmans employees, including another Teamsters group. The Teamsters Fund is in ‘critical’ status under federal law because it does not have enough assets. Based on the Teamsters Fund’s own numbers, for each dollar of retirement benefits promised by the fund, it has only 46 cents in assets, and they project it to decline over time to 34 cents. The fund has already cut benefit levels twice.”
Because of this, the company “has proposed to stop participating in the Teamsters Fund and pay the fund its required liability of approximately $136 million, which would help to preserve the benefits already due our employees from the fund. In addition, we have proposed generous payments to some employees in this group, based upon age and years of service, in order to help with this change. We are confident that all of the employees covered by this contract will have a much more secure retirement benefit.”
Wegmans expressed its hope that the matter would be resolved successfully, since it “has successfully negotiated fair and equitable agreements with the Teamsters Union for more than 50 years.”
Family-owned Wegmans operates 82 stores in New York, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Virginia, Maryland and Massachusetts.