Agreement precludes grocers’ strike

Averting a holiday-season strike, union representatives and negotiators for Northern California’s largest supermarket chain, Safeway, agreed on a preliminary contract early Sunday.

According to a spokeswoman for United Food and Commercial Workers Local 101, union members were prepared to authorize a strike today if negotiators missed Saturday’s contract deadline.The new contract applies to more than 25,000 workers in Northern California and mainly affects workers in the supermarket’s food services, meat departments and general merchandise areas.

Union Spokeswoman Amber Bagwell said she couldn’t reveal the details of the contract because it still needs to be ratified by members, but she said the contract addresses basic demands — wage increases, benefit protection and no employee premiums on health care.

Safeway spokesman Brian Dowling said Thursday that he was confident the contract dispute would be worked out on the negotiating table. Union officials said the talks came to an end at 3:30 a.m. Sunday.

According to Pleasanton-based Safeway Inc., the supermarket chain operates 244 stores in Northern California, 15 stores in San Francisco and 19 stores in San Mateo County.

“We are very happy we came to an agreement with Safeway,” union President Mike Borstel said in a statement. “A strike would have meant lost wages and benefits for our members, and with the holidays around the corner, it would not have been a good situation.”

The union recently agreed on similar contracts with two other Northern California supermarket chains: Raleys and Save Mart, which operates Albertsons and Lucky supermarkets in Northern California.

Four years ago, employees walked out of the company’s Vons and Pavilions chains in a Southern California strike. The strike lasted nearly five months and Safeway reported more than $100 million in losses.

bbegin@examiner.com

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