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Giant Eagle, union OK pacts that give raises

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Saturday, June 26, 2010

Grocery store workers and meat cutters at 36 corporate-owned Giant Eagle Supermarket Inc. stores approved two new four-year labor contracts Friday that give them a $1.55-an-hour raise over four years, union officials said.

Members of United Food and Commercial Workers Union Local 23 approved the agreements that cover about 5,800 workers at 34 Giant Eagle stores in Western Pennsylvania and two in West Virginia. The old contract expires today.

The contracts give union members a wage increase of 40 cents an hour in each of the first two years, then 35 cents an hour, followed by 40 cents an hour in the fourth year, said Anthony Helfer, president of UFCW Local 23 in Cecil. The union's bargaining committee had unanimously endorsed the settlement, which Giant Eagle and the union had reached on June 18.

While wage increases and benefits are similar for the grocery store workers and the meat cutters, there are separate issues for both groups, Helfer said. About 3,000 of the grocery store workers earn less than $9.30 an hour, and meat cutters earn about $17 an hour, he said.

In addition to health care and wage increases, Helfer said, Giant Eagle agreed to make a 43-cents-an-hour increase to its employee pension plan in the first year of the pact. The contract will cost the company $38.8 million in wages and benefits, spread over the next four years, he said.

Among workers who supported the pact, Ronald Jackson of McKeesport, who works at the Giant Eagle in Monroeville, said the agreement is a good deal, but he was hoping it would include paid medical benefits for retirees. Jackson, who has 40 years of service with Giant Eagle, said he could retire in about four years.

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