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Stater workers approve contract

Members of six locals representing 13,000 employees vote for the pact by large margins.

January 19, 2007|Jerry Hirsch | Times Staff Writer

Members of six union locals that represent more than 13,000 employees of Stater Bros. approved a three-year contract with the grocer, the union said Thursday.

The United Food and Commercial Workers plans to use the pact as a model for talks with three larger grocery chains in Southern and Central California that were involved in a 4 1/2 -month strike and lockout three years ago.

The pact with Colton-based Stater, which eliminates a two-tier wage system implemented after the strike and lockout ended in February 2004, was approved by a large margin at each of the locals in voting that ended late Wednesday.

Stater, which has 162 stores, agreed to raise hourly wages an average of $1.25 over three years.

The new single-tier pay scale for clerks will have 20 steps, ranging from $9.20 an hour to $18.40. The lower-paid tier in the previous contract started at $8.90 and topped out at $15.10.

Stater also agreed to increase its contributions toward health and pension benefits. But those contributions will be reduced to match any better deal for employers that the union might accept in talks with the three major chains, Chief Executive Jack Brown said.

The Stater pact does not have a similar "most favored nation" provision for wages. As a result, the wages paid under the accord won't change even if the union settles with a rival retailer for less money.

Union Local 770, which has 400 members at four Stater stores in Los Angeles County, has not voted on the contract. The local, which is seeking a larger wage increase, is still negotiating with Stater.

Talks with Albertsons, a unit of Supervalu Inc., started this week. Negotiations with Safeway Inc.'s Vons and Pavilions and Kroger Co.'s Ralphs are expected in coming weeks. The current contracts expire March 5.

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jerry.hirsch@latimes.com

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