NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — Stop & Shop employees returned to work Monday as grocery chain and the union representing them reached a tentative agreement on Sunday.
The strike lasted 11 days before a breakthrough in talks occurred late Easter Sunday. Membership will still have to vote on the contract for the protest to officially end.
The three Stop & Shops in the Berkshires were open limited hours during the strike and some services were not available.
"This is a very positive development that we could not have achieved without your unyielding support," reads a post on the UFCW Facebook page. "Please, stay closely tuned to this page over the next 72 hours as we will update you with more information when we have it."
The supermarket chain's 31,000 workers walked out on April 11 after talks stalled over a new three-year contract. The members of five United Food and Commercial Workers International locals covering New England voted to authorize a strike on March 11; their contract ended in February.
"This is a great victory for our union members," Tyrone Housey, president of UFCW Local 1459, said in a Facebook video posted on Sunday night.
UFCW Local 1459 represents some 2,000 Stop & Shop employees in Western Mass, including the three stores in the Berkshires.
Housey's video update on Saturday had shown the union and Stop & Shop were still far apart on health and welfare benefits and that talks were moving slowly. The union had objected to scheduled raises being immediately eaten up by increases in insurance premiums and lower tiers for part-time pension benefits.
Stop & Shop has argued that being the only unionized chain left it at a disadvantage in a competitive market. Company officials pointed to the high wages and benefits its workers earn. UFCW responded that the chain's parent company, Dutch multinational Ahold Delhaize, made $2 billion in profits last year.
The details of the agreement have not been released. According to joint statement by the unions, it "preserves health care and retirement benefits, provides wage increases, and maintains time-and-a-half pay on Sunday for current members."
Stop & Shop made a similar statement and thanks customers for their patience.
"Our associates' top priority will be restocking our stores so we can return to taking care of our customers and communities and providing them with the service they deserve. We deeply appreciate the patience and understanding of our customers during this time, and we look forward to welcoming them back to Stop & Shop," the company posted on its website.
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