A proposal to eliminate medical benefits for retired workers has slowed contract negotiations between a Hammonton-based union representing about 500 Super Fresh employees and the supermarket's parent company.
Brian String, president of the United Food and Commercial Workers Local 152, said Tuesday that it "clearly is unacceptable" for the Great Atlantic & Pacific Tea Co., also known as A&P, to want to eliminate retiree health benefits. Currently, the employer pays the premium, he added.
Other top contract issues include preserving workers' wages, pension and health and welfare funds.
"Seventy-five percent of the industry is part time now and some of them don't have the means to afford all their health care costs," String said. "These aren't people making $60,000 a year. We have a lot of single mothers supporting families with these benefits."
The full- and part-time Super Fresh employees belong to various departments and range from managers to clerks at store locations in Hammonton, Cape May Court House, Ocean City, Wildwood and the Manahawkin section of Stafford Township.
A spokeswoman for A&P, based in Montvale, Bergen County, did not return a request for comment Tuesday.
String said talks, which began in November, are still ongoing with A&P. The employees have been working under an extension of their previous four-year contract.
Meanwhile, Local 152 will begin contract negotiations next week with another supermarket, as the current union contract for Acme employees who work in the meat, produce and other "back end" departments expires at the end of May.
The union represents about 1,880 of those workers in Pennsylvania, Delaware and New Jersey, including at Acme stores in Somers Point and Ocean City.
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