Strike ends, now what?

After nearly five months, the SoCal grocery strike is over. In what was perhaps a rather predictable political maneuver, the biggest lossers will be the new guys: The contract will put veteran workers and new hires in separate pay and benefits tiers for the first time. The newly hired will receive substantially less in wages and benefits, slashing stores’ labor costs. The two-tier plan was a key goal of the three supermarket companies: Albertsons Inc.; Kroger Co., which owns Ralphs; and Safeway Inc., which owns Vons and Pavilions. Here are the key components to the new contract that covers 70,000 workers: The union claimed a victory in healthcare coverage: Under the contract, veterans won’t have to pay for their coverage in the first two years, and not in the third year if contributions from the companies are enough to cover costs. If not, the estimated cost would be up to $5 a week for individual coverage and up to $15 a week for family coverage. But workers now will have co-payments for medical services that were paid in full by their insurance under the contract that expired Oct. 6. Instead of raises, veterans will get lump sum payments this year equal to 30 cents an hour for every hour they worked in the 12 months before the old contract expired. That would be about $500 per employee based on an average 32-hour workweek. A second bonus would be paid after the end of the second year of the contract, equal to 30 cents an hour for every hour worked from March 6, 2005, through Oct. 6, 2006, according to a contract summary obtained by The Times. With the transit and grocery strikes over, how can SoCal keep up with its extended impersonation of France? Now there are grumblings about a hotel workers strike. Stay tuned.