A strike at Valley Fry’s and Safeway supermarkets has been averted, at least for the foreseeable future.
Contracts for about 15,000 Arizona supermarket workers will expire midnight Saturday, but both sides have agreed to stay at the bargaining table indefinitely in hopes of hashing out a new agreement.
The supermarket chains and United Food and Commercial Workers Local 99 issued a joint statement today saying negotiations, which began in earnest Wednesday, have “continued in a frank and exhaustive manner.”
“The parties recognize that the significant issues that currently separate them require further discussion,” the statement said. “In consideration of the interests of the employees, customers and members of Local 99, the parties have reached an agreement today to indefinitely extend their labor agreements.”
Either side can renege on the indefinite extension with seven days notice.
The issues on the table are health care coverage and premiums, shoring up the pension pot — which was decimated by the sagging economy — and a pay raise.
The supermarkets want union workers, who currently don’t pay any premiums for health care coverage, to pay part of the monthly costs and to limit eligibility to those who work at least 130 hours a month instead of the 80 hours that now qualify part-timers for full health care coverage.
The union wants health care coverage to remain as it is in the current contract and for the supermarkets to kick in more money to the pension fund.
The supermarket companies said they need to trim expenses to stay competitive with other non-unionized chains, especially Wal-Mart Supercenters.