Just hours before 36,000 New England grocery workers were to strike, negotiators for the United Food & Commercial Workers and grocer Stop & Shop reached a new three-year contract. While there appears to have been some give and take in the agreement, the Socialist take on the contract is anything but flattering:
…[S]ome of the workers who gathered for the meeting at a function hall in Randolph, located just south of Boston, were angry that a portion of the pay increases for this year had been replaced by a signing payment and the increases themselves were negligible.
Brian [an employee] said there was good and bad in the contract. “The wage rate is not good, especially for the part-timers. I think all the wages could be higher.”Andrea Fay, a bakery worker who voted for the contract, said, “It’s not that great, but I can’t afford to strike, I’d lose my home. I’ve been doing this for 20 years. The company is going to give you what they want to.”
The wage increases are indeed paltry. Full-time weekly employees will receive a $750 signing bonus and a wage increase totaling $1.15 an hour over the course of the three-year contract. That figure includes a 25-cent an hour pay raise this year, beginning in August.
Part-time workers with more than two years of service will receive a $400 signing bonus, and a total 60-cent per hour increase over three years. But their first raise of 30 cents per hour is not due until March next year, with a further 30 cents per hour in 2012.
Part-timers with 12 to 24 months of service will get a $300 signing bonus next week and a total 55-cent per hour increase: 25 cents per hour in March 2011 and a 30 cent per hour hike in March 2012. Those with less than 12 months service will receive a $100 signing bonus and a 25-cent per hour raise in 2011 and a further 25-cent an hour raise in 2012.
Under the new contract there will be no extra health care costs for this year, but from March 2011 there will be increases of between $12 and $20 per month for all full- and part-time employees. The rate of increase will depend on the cost of current policies, and the increases will remain in place for the next three years.
Many of the part-time employees had hoped the contract negotiations would provide an opportunity to improve their working conditions. Gary Little is a part-time worker at the Stop & Shop in Watertown, Mass. “For part-timers it’s crap,” he said of the contract. “I work part-time. We have to wait until Fridays to get our schedule. You can’t plan anything, like a doctor’s appointment. How can you make an appointment for the next Monday when you don’t know what days and hours you’ll be working? Everything’s up in the air.
“I bring reason to your ears, and, in language as plain as ABC, hold up truth to your eyes.” Thomas Paine, December 23, 1776
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