Safeway, Giant workers voting today on contracts

Area stores closed from 6 a.m. to 1 p.m.

March 21, 2000|By Lorraine Mirabella | Lorraine Mirabella,SUN STAFF

Employees of Giant Food Inc. and Safeway Inc. vote today on proposed four-year labor contracts that include wage increases.

The supermarket chains made final offers late Saturday to the United Food and Commercial Workers, which represents some 30,000 store cashiers, produce and deli clerks, pharmacy workers and meat cutters in the Baltimore-Washington region.

The current contracts expire Saturday.

All Giant and Safeway stores in the region will be closed from 6 a.m. to 1 p.m. today to allow employees to attend ratification meetings, the companies said yesterday.

Members of Baltimore-based Local 27, which covers 5,765 Giant workers and 2,089 Safeway employees, will meet at Martin's West in Woodlawn, while the Landover-based Local 400 has scheduled meetings for its 18,000 members at the D.C. Armory.

Union negotiators and company officials would not comment on the proposals -- other than to say wage increases are part of the package -- which the two sides ironed out over the weekend after daily bargaining sessions last week.

"Until it is voted on, we're in a situation where we can't talk about what's being presented," said Greg TenEyck, director of public affairs for Safeway.

Rank-and-file union committees were to review the proposals last night before union leaders present the package to membership today, said Jim Lowthers, president of UFCW Local 400.

"This is the companies' final and complete offer, and I would not imagine it changing," Lowthers said.

Because of the competitive nature of food retailing, with area supermarket chains challenged both by nonunion rivals and mass merchandisers, sources had expected key issues to revolve around wages, benefits and work on Sundays, when employees are paid up to double-time.

Buddy Mays, president of UFCW Local 27, had said the union would seek wage increases through higher hourly wages rather than one-time bonuses. The company was expected to seek more flexibility in scheduling and pay scales for work on Sunday, which has become the busiest day of the week.

"It seems like Lowthers and Mays were intent upon their initial agenda," said Jeff Metzger, publisher of Columbia-based trade journal Food World. "It seems it has been accomplished."

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