Wednesday, August 10, 2011
A new health care proposal from the region's three largest grocery chains wasn't received well by union negotiators this week. The new proposal comes as union leaders prepare to ask their members to authorize a strike, again.
SAN DIEGO Baggers, checkers and butchers voted in April to approve a strike. It is now August and there's still no deal. So union officials are giving their 60,000 members a chance to examine the latest contract offer and re-authorize a strike at a vote next Friday.
"Its been a couple of months," said Mickey Kasparian, president of United Food and Commercial Workers Local 135. "They deserve to see that before they would go on strike."
Health care remains a sticking point in the contract talks. Albertson's, Ralph's, and Vons negotiators offered a new health care plan this week, but union officials said the offer falls short because the benefits are not fully funded.
"Some of the things that they proposed, if they were willing to put the money up for those proposals, would definitely be a step in the right direction," said Kasparian. "And we'd certainly be interested in that. But again the money has to go with the proposals."
Union leaders insist workers just want the same benefits offered under the old contract.
Alberston's spokesman Fred Muir said the plan is an improved offer. Under the proposal, the stores pay more for health care and Muir said he is hopeful the proposal moves both sides closer to an agreement.
"This is the way negotiations work," said Muir. "You know, we made an initial health care proposal back in June. We did hear some comments back from the union. We took those into consideration. And now we've crafted a new health care proposal which we've submitted to the union."
The stores want a contract that offers benefits to workers while the keeping the chains competitive in the Southern California market, according to Muir.
"Everyone would like it to be done sooner, but we'd rather have a good contract than a fast contract," said Muir.