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Last Updated: Monday, 1 March, 2004, 10:25 GMT
US grocery strike is finally over
The 20-week long strike finally comes to an end.
The longest-running grocery strike in US history is over after Californian workers approved a new contract with major supermarket chains.

Almost 900 stores were affected by the strike and lock-out, which hit Kroger, Albertsons and Safeway, costing them more than $1bn in lost sales.

Workers were striking over attempts by the chains to slash health benefits.

Increased competition, the stores said, meant the benefits could not survive without contributions from workers.

But under the terms of a deal struck at the weekend, union members will not have to make any contributions toward their health care plans in the first two years.

Now they will only pay from $5 to $15in the third year of heath care reserves to not cover the costs.

Two-tier wages

On the other hand new employees will receive lower benefits and wages under a new two-tier wage system.

They will have to pay around $9 a week to secure a basic health care plan, while making less than the average wage of $12 to $14 an hour earned by staff who have already joined.

Supermarkets will contribute 35% toward staff pensions for new workers and 65% for veteran employees, down from their previous contribution of 100% to company pension plans.

Grocery workers were said to be disappointed by the terms of the new deal, but most were resigned to going back to the shopping malls after the walk-out which has been dragging on since 11 October.

"We've been out here five months and I think that's the best we can do. You've got to take what you have to," union member George Yic said in an interview with KABC-TV in the US.

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