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Southern California’s three major supermarket chains have reached an agreement with the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) to extend their labor agreements until April 9 as the two sides continue to negotiate a new contract. The extension, according to reports, will continue on a day-to-day basis until either party decides to walk away from the negotiating table.

According to a statement released by Albertsons, Safeway (which owns Vons there) and Kroger (which owns Ralphs), “Over the last few weeks, we have worked together with the unions and the federal mediator with the shared goal of negotiating a contract that addresses common concerns of managing rising health care and benefit costs and continuing to provide quality union jobs.

“Since the last Southern California contract was settled in 2004, Albertsons, Ralphs and Vons have negotiated dozens of mutually beneficial settlements with UFCW locals in numerous markets across the country – and there is good reason to believe we can accomplish the same here in Southern California.”
KC's View:
We’ve been saying all along that we believe that none of the big three can afford a work stoppage this time around, if for no other reason than Tesco is scheduled to start opening stores in Southern California later this year. Unless we miss our guess, the pressure to come to a deal increases with every passing day, because we get closer to the time when Tesco actually opens those first stores.

We also hope that during the negotiating sessions, the two sides are taking seriously the kinds of health care issues put on the table by Safeway CEO Steve Burd – lowering costs and improving coverage while increasing individual responsibility. Because without fundamental changes in this area, the inevitable breakdown in the system will just draw closer.