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    Western Grocers Sweeten Union Deals With Gift Cards

    Grocery chains King Soopers and Safeway offered signing bonuses consisting of gift cards worth up to $1,000 to union workers in Colorado and Wyoming as part of contract proposals.

    Grocery chains King Soopers and Safeway offered signing bonuses consisting of gift cards worth up to $1,000 to union workers in Colorado and Wyoming as part of contract proposals.

    The proposals also would include slightly bigger raises and shorter-term contracts.

    According to Safeway spokeswoman Kris Staaf, this is a significantly improved offer compared with previous offers, and will still allow the chain to remain competitive against non-union stores.

    King Soopers president Russ Dispense said the banner has offered bonuses, raises and increased health care benefits at a time when many companies are freezing raises and cutting health care benefits.

    The 52-month contract, which Local 7 was still reviewing at presstime, is eight months shorter than previous proposals. The first-year raise of 30 cents an hour for the highest-paid employees is five cents an hour higher than earlier offers, according to King Soopers. The proposal also includes bonuses paid in gift cards upon ratification that range from $150 to $1,000 depending on position, status, and length of service. (For regularly updated details on the offers, click the following link to visit the Westword Blog): http://blogs.westword.com/latestword/2009/11/king_soopers_last_best_and_fin.php

    The raises would apply to the nearly two-thirds of King Soopers unionized work force who earn “the top rate or above,” the company said Wednesday. Other parts of the deal include 25-cent-an-hour annual raises, $40 million in additional payments to a pension plan, reduced waiting periods for family medical benefits, and new preventive health care benefits.

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