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Wegmans Food Markets has made what it calls its “last, best and final offer” to employees represented by Teamsters Local 118 in a bid to resolve negotiations that have lasted for more than six months. Local 118 represents about 900 Wegmans distribution and transportation employees in the grocer’s hometown of Rochester, N.Y.
“Under our final proposal, full-time employees will receive an immediate $1,000 lump-sum payment ($500 for part-time employees) and an 18 percent pay raise over the life of the six-year contract, and depending on age and years of service, a generous package of retirement assistance options valued at over $10 million,” said Mike Cullen, Wegmans’ VP of distribution.
The company pointed out that the employees of this bargaining unit earn an average of $50,000 annually, with drivers averaging more than $70,000 per year – what Cullen characterized as “well above market rates.”
According to CEO Danny Wegman: “The success of our company was built on the hard work and dedication of our employees, and the incredible service they deliver every day. It’s what sets us apart as a company. We care about our employees and believe that this offer is one that will help them to build a secure future.”
At issue is Local 118’s insistence that its employees continue to participate in the financially troubled New York State Teamsters Conference Pension and Retirement Fund (NYS Fund), a multiemployer pension fund that Wegmans notes is currently underfunded by more than $1.7 billion. The fund has already cut retirement benefits twice.
Wegmans says that only a portion of the millions of dollars it contributes to the fund benefits its own employees for their future retirement, with some money going to cover the gap left by now-bankrupt companies that no longer contribute. To remedy this problem, Wegmans has proposed that the bargaining unit move to the 100 percent funded Wegmans Retirement Plan, to which all other eligible company employees belong, including another Teamsters group at Wegmans represented by Local 118. Participation in the plan would be in addition to the company’s 401(k) plan, which union members are already eligible to participate, receiving a company match.
Additionally under its proposal, Wegmans would pay the NYS Fund about $136 million in withdrawal liability to help preserve the benefits already due its employees from the fund.
“We are hopeful that the union will give our people the opportunity to vote on this contract,” said Danny Wegman. “It is also our hope that our employees will see and understand that this offer honors their service to our company and reflects our commitment to each of them, their families, and their future.”
Voting on the contract hasn’t yet been scheduled.
Family-owned Wegmans operates 82 stores in New York, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Virginia, Maryland and Massachusetts.