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Queens Chronicle

Stop & Shop may hire temps over union issues

Health insurance dispute at forefront

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Posted: Thursday, November 21, 2013 10:30 am | Updated: 10:37 am, Wed Nov 27, 2013.

Stop & Shop stores in the New York region might hire 6,000 temporary workers should contract negotiations with union workers fail again at their next meeting set for Nov. 22.

In October, the United Food and Commercial Workers Union Local 1500 called for a strike in response to a proposal to reduce employee healthcare benefits, possibly cut coverage for part-time workers and withdraw from pension funds. Both the UFCW and Stop & Shop have tried to restructure their contract due to rising healthcare costs from the passage of the Affordable Care Act.

The collective bargaining agreement expired back on Sept. 28 after which both parties agreed to two contract extensions to negotiate. During that period, the union voted to authorize a strike if needed. When the second extension expired on Nov. 2, the union then put out a request for a federal mediator to intervene in further discussions. In a statement, UFCW Secretary Treasurer Anthony Speelman said that the hiring of temp workers “truly shows the absolute disconnect Stop & Shop management has not only with its workers, but more importantly with its shoppers,” citing the inexperience that comes with a batch of newly hired employees. Speelman said the union will not call for a strike until the mediator has had the opportunity to help the parties reach an agreement.

Stop & Shop spokeswoman Arlene Putterman said that “Given the union’s statements threatening a strike, we have a responsibility to intensify our contingency planning to help protect the interests of our customers, associates and company.”

According to UFCW spokesmen Patrick Purcell, the union has one more vote before a strike can be authorized. He says that Stop & Shop, as of now, could lock out workers at any time. He noted that Stop & Shop did propose a contract extension until Jan. 30 but says that was only done so that workers would be there for the heavy holiday season, leaving them to strike in the middle of winter.

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