Gelson's, the high-end grocery store based owned by Arden Group Inc., has followed the lead of Stater Bros. in signing an agreement with its workers' union.

The agreement by Compton-based Arden follows a similar agreement reached by Colton-based Stater Bros., which signed a deal earlier this year with the United Food and Commercial Workers, avoiding a possible strike and setting a precedent among local grocers. The current contract at Gelson's was set to expire March 5.

Few specifics of the agreement were released, but the pact gives the unions additional negotiating leverage in their talks with Albertsons, owned by Supervalu Inc.; Vons, owned by Safeway Inc.; and Ralphs, owned by Kroger Co. as they push higher wages and improved health care coverage.

The pact reportedly includes a provision that the chain will employ at least 60 percent of its workers full time, improve health benefit funding and eliminate a two-tier wage system implemented in Feb. 2004.

Gelson's also will reportedly guarantee an hourly wage 5 cents higher than what the three national chains in Southern California will give their workers in the next contract.

Shares in Arden Group closed up 69 cents Tuesday to $120.23.

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