RI Stop & Shop Stores, Union Reach Tentative Deal to Avoid Strike
Tuesday, March 05, 2013
The tentative contract, which is subject to a legal review by the union’s attorneys, will be presented to union members throughout New England for a vote this Sunday.
“The purpose of the meeting will be to report on contract negotiations, vote to accept or reject the proposed contract, and if the contract is rejected, a strike vote will be taken,” UFCW Local 371 President Tom Wilkinson said in a release to union members yesterday. “We look forward to a full attendance at this very important meeting!”
James Riley, the Secretary/Treasurer of UFCW Local representing Rhode Island said the unions and Stop & Shop had a difficult time reaching an agreement primarily because of one key component of the contract: healthcare changes brought about by the Patient Protection Affordable Care Act.
“It’s changed the game as far as negotiated benefits and the law,” Riley said. “We brought in some very, very smart, very professional experts in the industry, some of the brightest minds in the business from Washington, DC to help us get along through these difficult negotiations.”
Riley said the uncertainty of the law, whose main provisions go into effect beginning next year, made negotiations much more difficult than they’ve been in the past.
“We didn’t normally negotiate the way we normally negotiate in terms of part-time healthcare, full-time healthcare,” he said. “We had to take into consideration this law and had to figure out how we could go forward to keep affordable health care for our part-timers and full-timers and how to move forward for the best results for the members.”
Riley wouldn’t go into specifics of the tentative deal—saying he wanted union members to see it for themselves at Sunday’s meeting—but said the changes to the company’s healthcare policy were the “main stumbling block.”
“That was what was driving negotiations more than anything else,” he said. “It made it very grueling to get through it but we had a lot of very smart, very talented individuals assisting us in negotiations and we’ve got something that we can bring to the membership.”
The UFCW union contract with Stop & Shop initially expired on February 24 but was extended a week in an effort to avoid a possible strike after the two sides couldn’t come to an agreement on the changes made because of the new healthcare law.
“We were far away,” Riley said. “We were far away, we needed an extension and we just needed more time.”
Riley said the Union was going to do whatever it could to avoid a potential strike of its 40,000 total employees, 11,000 of which are from Rhode Island and Massachusetts.
“It’s important to our membership to have good consistent money coming in and have them keep their jobs without having a break,” he said. “We represent a lot of people who rely on us for their hours, wages, working conditions and benefits and we do not take that responsibility lightly. The members don’t want to strike, we don’t want to strike and the company doesn’t want to strike and we were able to once again come to an agreement without that job action, contingent on the membership voting on Sunday.”
Riley said he sees the healthcare negotiations becoming a stumbling block for “many other industries” in their future negotiations but believes that, on Sunday, his union will vote on what it believes is the best deal for itself.
“We will bring what we have negotiated to the membership and we’re confident that they will make a sensible decision looking at the facts and the presentation that we give to them and we’ll move forward,” he said.
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