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Safeway contracts: Some workers get bonuses, others still in limbo

In mid-December, United Food and Commercial Workers Local 7 members who work for King Soopers and Safeway weighed in on a new contract -- one that provided ratification bonuses for those who offered "yes" votes. But the results were mixed. King Soopers workers approved the deal, while their peers at Safeway rejected it, albeit without authorizing a strike.

In its response to the vote, Safeway focused on bargaining units that accepted the company's offer, and they were rewarded for their choice. "There were around fourteen bargaining units that ratified our last, best and final offer," says Kris Staff, Safeway spokeswoman, citing clerks in Grand Junction as one example. "We began implementing the terms of the offer for those units immediately, and they've already gotten their ratification bonuses" -- amounts ranging from $150 to $1,000 depending on post and length of service.

This move sets up an unusual have-and-have-not situation, with roughly a quarter of the units working under a contract and three-quarters still in limbo. And the latter are likely to remain in that position for some time to come.

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The employees who rejected the contract "have been working without a contract for some time now," Staaf notes -- but when asked if this is a problem, she doesn't answer directly, instead responding, "There's nothing I can report now."

She repeats this phrase when asked about the prospect of negotiations with the UFCW, adding, "Maybe that's a question for Local 7 leadership." Messages have been left with UFCW spokeswoman Laura Chapin. If and when she responds, we'll update this item.

Staaf emphasizes that she doesn't want to speculate about what the future may hold regarding a contract for the employees who didn't ratify the Safeway offer, and who continue to work under the old deal. But Safeway seems to be playing a waiting game, and given the transition in leadership at UFCW, it could well prove to be an effective strategy.

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