Talks resume in union dispute
Pressure from Stop & Shop’s investors grows
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
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.”
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.