Kroger Co. (KR) extends union contract for 12,000 Cincinnati workers

Second extension means UFCW deal expires March 1

The Kroger Co. has extended until March 1 its contract with the union representing about 12,000 Kroger employees in Greater Cincinnati.

Spokeswoman Rachael Betzler said the extension "will give us more time to understand the opportunities and cost associated with health care."

The United Food and Commercial Workers Local 75 said in an update to members this morning that wages and health benefits will not change while the contract extension is in place.

"We have made progress throughout negotiations regarding language items, but continue to focus on your health care benefits," said the UFCW statement. "Our goal is to create meaningful, and practical, solutions to our health care challenges, so we are proceeding cautiously. Health and welfare bargaining is always complex and is always time consuming."

UFCW spokeswoman Brigid Kelly said no formal bargaining sessions are scheduled for the rest of this week.

Health care changes mandated by the Affordable Care Act have made contract talks more complicated for Kroger this year. In Indiana, the company ended health coverage for spouses in a contract approved in June. In Dallas, a new contract was approved with no such cuts.

"Every bargaining contract is unique and we approach each negotiation individually based on local business circumstances," said Kroger spokesman Keith Dailey. " The recently ratified contract in Dallas, TX and the Indiana contract ratified this summer demonstrate this well: Dallas associates and their families continue to have access to health care under Taft-Hartley plans. Indiana associates and their children are covered under Taft-Hartley plans and their spouses have access to affordable health care through the government exchanges." Our company philosophy is that we want associates and their families to have access to affordable health care coverage."

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