Maryland grocers, unions strike deal -- Gazette.Net







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This story was corrected on March 30, 2012. An explanation follows.

After nearly three months of contract negotiations, Safeway, Giant Food and the labor unions representing their workers have hammered out a tentative agreement, two days before the current four-year contract is scheduled to expire.

The tentative agreement comes after weeks of tension between the groups over strike concerns and the recruiting of replacement workers. United Food & Commercial Workers Local 400 also filed a complaint with the National Labor Relations Board this year regarding complaints with the grocers’ methods.

Local 400 and Local 27, along with the grocers, announced the tentative agreement Thursday. The rank and file of the unions are to vote on it Tuesday, with the current contract extended until then.

“I am pleased that after long and difficult negotiations, we have been able to reach an agreement that increases our members’ wages and strengthens their health and retirement security,” Local 400 President Tom McNutt said in a statement. “It was our members’ activism in reaching out to customers and the community, and their unbreakable solidarity throughout this challenging period that made this agreement possible.”

Local 400 represents 17,000 workers in the Washington, D.C., area, including those who work at the region’s 126 Giant Food and Safeway supermarkets.

“If ratified, the agreement guarantees Giant associates will remain among the highest compensated in the industry in the Baltimore-Washington area, while also positioning Giant to effectively compete in a growing marketplace,” Giant said in a statement.

Safeway officials declined further comment.

Giant Food, a division of Royal Ahold of the Netherlands, has its regional headquarters in Landover, while Safeway, a Pleasanton, Calif., chain, has its Eastern division headquarters in Lanham.

Giant continues to face pressure from competitors with lower labor costs and lower prices that are entering the marketplace, according to a summary of the contract negotiations previously posted on the company’s website.

When compared with other grocers, Safeway and Giant Food combined have almost 60 percent of the Baltimore-Washington market share. But that drops to 35 percent when taking into account all businesses that sell grocery products, such as drugstores, according to June figures from Food World, a trade publication in Columbia. Nonunion companies account for most of the top 10 market leaders.

Explanation: The unions will vote on the contract Tuesday, not Monday, as originally reported.