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GROCER, UNION AGREE ON CONTRACT FOOD 4 LESS DEAL AVERTS COSTLY STRIKE.

Byline: Candice Choi Staff Writer

COMPTON - Food 4 Less reached a tentative contract with its union workers Friday, bringing an end to several months of heated negotiations and averting another costly Southern California supermarket strike.

``The union is pleased that we were able to come to a tentative agreement without having to take economic action,'' said Ellen Anreder, spokeswoman for the United Food and Commercial Workers.

Just two weeks ago, a majority of the 5,700 employees working for Compton-based Food 4 Less rejected the grocer's last contract proposal and authorized a strike.

The deal comes just months after 59,000 grocery clerks at more than 850 Ralphs, Vons and Albertsons ratified a new contract in March, ending the longest and largest grocery strike in U.S. history.

The strike and lockout lasted more than four months, costing employees jobs and lost wages during the holidays and the companies millions of dollars.

The key issues in the Food 4 Less contract, as with the three leading grocers last fall, centered around the company's proposed decreased health care benefits for current employees and lower wages and benefits for new hires, said UFCW spokeswoman Barbara Maynard. Neither she, nor Terry O'Neill, a spokesman for Food 4 Less' parent Kroger Co., would elaborate on the terms of the deal.

The seven locals of the UFCW will recommend ratification of the agreement to their members Oct. 4; a vote will take place the same day.

Unionized employees have been working under an expired contract since late February, when their three-year contract ended.

Earlier this month, Kroger, which operates 300 Ralphs in addition to 101 Food 4 Less markets in Southern California, reported quarterly earnings that were $50 million lower than the year-ago same quarter, which the company attributed to lingering losses from the strike.

Candice Choi, (818) 713-3634

candice.choi(at)dailynews.com
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Title Annotation:Business
Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Sep 25, 2004
Words:309
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