Western Slope grocery talks open
DENVER – A union representing about 1,200 Western Slope workers said contract talks Wednesday were going poorly with three grocery chains, which offered them less than what was offered to Front Range workers.Meanwhile, Front Range workers waited to hear from union leadership on whether they could still vote on their own contract offer.United Food and Commercial Workers Local 7 members began voting this month on the Front Range proposal from King Soopers, Safeway and Albertsons and whether to strike, but the national UFCW president halted the vote while he reviewed the offer.The local has suggested that the contract offer is so damaging that it could hurt other bargaining units.A UFCW spokeswoman said it could be a couple of days before there is a decision on what will happen next.The talks on the Western Slope involved workers at 16 Safeway, Albertsons and City Market stores. King Soopers and City Market are both owned by Kroger Co.One of the Western Slope union stores is the Safeway in Glenwood Springs.Local 7 spokesman Dave Minshall said the companies offered Western Slope workers even less than what Front Range workers were offered because of what the grocers said was more competitive pressure in the region and a lower cost of living.Safeway and City Market released a statement saying their proposals were designed to address the need to cut costs to better compete with low-cost competitors like Wal-Mart.”I don’t feel that we deserve any less than Denver,” said Jill Young, who works at City Market in Grand Junction.Young said some parts of the contract offer were left open, with City Market saying workers could get smaller insurance benefits if they opt for more pay, or vice versa.”This is a contract that Wal-Mart would be proud of,” Minshall said.Safeway and City Market did not comment on details of the offer. An Albertsons spokeswoman did not return a call seeking comment.Minshall said Safeway workers rejected the proposal.On the Front Range, talks to reach a new contract had dragged on for months over disagreements about health benefits and wages, and a federal mediator stepped in.No mediator is involved in the Western Slope talks. An indefinite contract extension there is allowing those talks to continue.—On the Net:King Soopers: http://www.kingsoopers.comAlbertsons: http://www.albertsons.comSafeway: http://www.safeway.comCity Market: http://www.citymarket.comUnited Food and Commercial Workers Local 7: http://ufcw7.org
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