Talks re­sume in union dis­pute

Pres­sure from Stop & Shop’s in­vestors grows

Hartford Courant (Sunday) - - Front Page - By Stephen Singer

Stop & Shop and the United Food and Com­mer­cial Work­ers union re­sumed ne­go­ti­a­tions Satur­day for a new con­tract, three days into a strike that emp­tied the chain’s stores of 31,000 union­ized work­ers in Con­necti­cut, Mas­sachusetts and Rhode Is­land.

Jeff Adams, shop stew­ard for Lo­cal 371 of the UFCW and a 28-year em­ployee who works at the East Hart­ford store, was pleased the two sides were meet­ing fol­low­ing a break in talks.

“It’s pos­i­tive that they are at the ne­go­ti­at­ing ta­ble,” he said.

Rep­re­sen­ta­tives of Stop & Shop and UFCW said the two par­ties were back at the ta­ble, joined by a fed­eral me­di­a­tor. They did not of­fer de­tails, but Stop & Shop said talks are sched­uled to re­sume Sun­day morn­ing.

The two sides have been in talks for a new con­tract since midJan­uary. The pre­vi­ous three-year agree­ment ex­pired in Fe­bru­ary.

A strike by Stop & Shop work­ers could jeop­ar­dize the chain’s turn­around plan and in­crease pres­sure on its Dutch owner, Royal Ahold Del­haize NV, Bloomberg News re­ported. The com­pany’s share price tum­bled 1.5 per­cent, to $24.75, in Fri­day trad­ing, eras­ing its gains for 2019.

Bloomberg quoted Jef­feries an­a­lyst James Grzinic, who said the dis­pute may not be re­solved soon. “We ig­nore how big the gap is” be­tween Ahold Del­haize’s of­fer and union de­mands, he said in a

note.

The UFCW said Stop & Shop is propos­ing to give many part-time em­ploy­ees an av­er­age gen­eral wage in­crease of less than 2 per­cent, while in­sist­ing on higher con­tri­bu­tions for health care to ac­count for sharply ris­ing costs.

The com­pany’s pro­pos­als would re­sult in $893 more on av­er­age from full-time em­ploy­ees over three years for weekly health care pre­mi­ums, ac­cord­ing to the union. It also said the com­pany’s pro­posal would cut the monthly pen­sion ben­e­fit for many new full-time hires by 32 per­cent.

Stop & Shop says it has of­fered to in­crease its con­tri­bu­tion to the UFCW’s na­tional pen­sion fund for full-time work­ers and vested part-time em­ploy­ees by an amount the pen­sion fund says will be enough to main­tain cur­rent ben­e­fits ac­crual rates. And it says its pro­pos­als will en­sure that all work­ers would re­ceive an in­crease in take-home pay.

In ad­di­tion, the two sides also dis­agree over pay on Sun­day, which the su­per­mar­ket says is its “top shopping day.” The com­pany pro­poses to freeze Sun­day and hol­i­day pre­mi­ums at cur­rent lev­els for part-time work­ers.

Work­ers also have raised alarms about in­creas­ing au­to­ma­tion, such as self­check­out, that they see as a threat to jobs.

The strike is the largest in the re­tail in­dus­try since 2 0 0 3, ac­cord­ing to Bloomberg Law an­a­lyst Robert Combs, who called it “al­most un­heard of.”

CHARLES KRUPA/AP PHOTOS

Union work­ers picket out­side a Stop & Shop su­per­mar­ket on Thurs­day in Nor­well, Mass., af­ter work­ers walked off the job in Mas­sachusetts, Rhode Is­land and Con­necti­cut over stalled con­tract ne­go­ti­a­tions.

Talks have re­sumed in the dis­pute be­tween Stop & Shop and its union work­ers, as in­vestor pres­sure on the com­pany grows.

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