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Grocery store workers contract talks to continue Wednesday
Contract talks are scheduled to continue Wednesday between Puget Sound area grocery store employees and the chains of Safeway, Fred Meyer, QFC and Albertsons.
"There has been progress over the last four days of negotiations, but the problems that remain are still too big," said Tom Geiger, union spokesman for UFCW 21, in a Monday media release. "New ideas have been advanced in the last couple days to potentially solve health and pension plan problems, but these are complicated and technical and we need to have our attorneys and experts review and analyze them further. Bargaining will continue with the employers on Wednesday the 16th to make another attempt at reaching a fair settlement."
Grocery stores have posted help wanted signs at stores to hire replacement workers. Any grocery store workers strike would give 72-hour notice to employers.
Geiger said key issues include essentially no wage increase for three more years, denial of paid sick days for all workers outside Seattle, increasing costs and reduced benefits in the health plan, cutting holiday pay when workers have to spend the day away from their families, increasing the amount of time it takes to get to the top rate of pay to over 10,000 hours and cutting the 10 cent above minimum wage guarantee for the lowest paid workers.
Employers did withdraw their attempt to cut workers off health care if they work fewer than 30 hours per week, Geiger said.
The current negotiations between the Teamsters Local 38, UFCW and the four major grocery chains have been going on for more than six months.
Grocery workers in four counties gave a 98 percent approval in late September to authorize a strike.
About 30,000 workers in King, Pierce, Kitsap and Snohomish counties are represented by unions UFCW 21, UFCW 367 and Teamsters 38, whose bargaining teams recommended the strike vote.
Scott Powers, the lead negotiator for Kirkland-based Allied Employers, which represents Albertsons, Fred Meyer, QFC and Safeway, has not yet responded to inquiries for an update about contract talks.
Another 1,000 grocery store workers in Thurston and Mason counties will vote Tuesday about whether to authorize a strike against stores in those counties.