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Berkshire Chamber Job Fair Draws Hundreds

Staff Reports

Christine Hoyt of the Berkshire Chamber, right, speaks with Linda M. Alfonso, left, a consultant with BeautiControl and others after Alfonso provided a sample hand massage.

About 250 people attended the job fair sponsored by the Berkshire Chamber of Commerce at the Berkshire Hills Country Club in Pittsfield on Thursday. That figure was lower than last year — during the depths of the recession — but  the good news was that the number of employers and employment resource services was up.

Christine Hoyt, the chamber's director of programs and events, said the turnout was good on both sides. "We had more than 40 employers, a little more than last year," she said. "Employers were satisfied with the good quality of the job seekers."

The excellent weather, along with the economy's slow emergence from the financial crisis, may have played a factor in the about average attendance, said Hoyt.

Employers ranging from LTI Smartglass, Interprint, Williams College and Norman Rockwell were on hand offering opportunities for the right candidates. iBerkshires' sister site, BerkshireJobs.com, also had a booth.

Tags: job fair      

Unions Reach Agreement With Stop & Shop

Staff Reports

Stop & Shop and its unionized workers are heading toward a strike. United Food and Commercial Workers 1459 says it served notice it will terminate its contract with the supermarket chain as of Friday at noon, as have two other UFCW locals in Rhode Island and Connectictut.

In a update posted on the UFCW site Thursday afternoon, President Scott Macey said the union was willing to negotiate with the supermarket through Friday for "a fair and reasonable offer." However, the union can call a job action at any point and strike without notice, he wrote.

UFCW 1459 covers workers in Berkshire County and Western Mass. Employees at the store in North Adams have said they're prepared to strike and that they've been told by loyal customers that they won't cross at picket line. Stop & Shop also operates two stores in Pittsfield.

Stop & Shop took advertisements in local newspapers for temporary help last month in anticipation of a breakdown in negotiations; talks between the chain and its union have been rocky and a federal mediator was called in to help with the talks.

On its Web site, the grocer stated that "negotiations are continuing and this does not necessarily mean there will be a work stoppage; however the locals would be free to initiate a work stoppage after the 24 hour period ends. If a work stoppage does occur, Stop & Shop may use temporary replacement workers to support our stores."

Any work stoppage would affect more than 300 workers in Berkshire County.

Update at 8:46 p.m.: The five union locals say they're scheduling votes for Sunday on a new offer from Stop & Shop, per federal mediators. According to postings on the UFCW Web site, talks are closer on health and pensions, but the locals feel there should be significant movement on wages and new hires. Stop &  Shop has consistently stated its workers are well paid compared to similar nonunion workplaces.

Update at 9:27 a.m. , March 7: The five union locals say they reached a tentative agreement on Saturday night. The union membership will vote this afternoon; Berkshire County union members will be presented the contract and will vote at the Holyoke Holiday Inn beginning at 3 p.m.

Update, 9:35 a.m., March 8: UCFW has voted to accept the contract offered by Stop & Shop. Some 400 employees in Berkshire County and Western Mass. attended a presentation Sunday on the offer, which passed 307-23. UCFW 1459 President Scott Macey said the contract protected many benefits and contained other improvements. In a posting on the Web site, Macey said the union got about 92 percent of what it wanted.

"Today was a very good day. We were able to present a very good package," he said. "Tremendous improvements in health and welfare and pension plan staying the same, and a few other improvements, I couldn't be happier with the outcome today."

Four other UCFW locals also approved the contract, averting a strike.

Tags: Union, strike, Stop & Shop      
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