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Saturday, November 06, 2004

Unanticipated Result of Two Tier
This is related to some posts that I made about a year ago in this blog: [10/31/2003] [11/3/2003] [11/10/2003] [11/11/2003]

The following excerpts are from an article that appeared in the San Luis Obispo Tribune on October 31, 2004:

The strike was called over employer proposals to cut health care and pension benefits and create a substantially lower tier of wages and benefits for new hires. Supermarkets were also seeking the right to open nonunion stores.

For their part, the workers strived to keep their existing health-care benefits, with 100 percent of the premiums covered by the company. They also wanted to receive hourly wage increases of 50 cents the first year and 45 cents each of the following two years.

But the agreement reached in February introduced a two-tier labor contract, under which new hires receive lower wages and benefits than existing workers....

Kelly Tabares, a clerk at Vons in Los Osos for 18 years...disagrees with the two-tier system and said the store has been unable to keep new hires as a result.

Pierre, the union representative, said general merchandise clerks previously started at $7.55, rising to $12.17 after two years. Today, the rates still start at $7.55 but only reach $11.05 after 7,800 hours. That could take four to 10 years to reach.

Regarding benefits, he said employees and their dependents previously became eligible after five months. Now, most new employees are eligible after a year, and their families must wait about 2 1/2 years.

"It's a revolving door at the stores," said Pierre. "Not so much for the people who made it through the strike and the lock- out, but for the new hires."

Terry O'Neil, spokesman for Ralphs Grocery Co., declined to comment on the amount of turnover in that chain....

Representatives from Albertsons and Vons did not return calls seeking comment.

Ellen Anreder, a spokeswoman for the United Food and Commercial Workers union, said the union in the next round of contract negotiations will try to undo the two-tier system.

A year ago, I figured that if two-tier would go through, a cadre of second tier workers would build up and eventually displace the first tier workers. Instead, it looks like the first tier is staying around...the job's still lucrative enough for them...and it's the second tier that is churning. Are we witness to the graying of the grocery industry?

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