Grocery workers and the parent companies of Ralphs, Vons, and Albertsons have reached a tentative contract agreement, both sides announced midday Monday.

The agreement must still be approved by union members before it can go into effect. The union hasn't gone on strike against the major chains since 2003.

“We … will present it to our members for approval later this week,” Rick Icaza, president of the United Food and Commercial Workers, Local 770, said in a statement. “We would like to thank the federal mediator, Scot Beckenbaugh, as well as all our customers for their patience and support through this difficult process.”

The last labor contract, approved in 2007, covered about 62,000 checkers, baggers, meat cutters and other grocery workers across the region. The recent negotiations have focused on healthcare funding and how to pay for benefits.

The contract expired on March 6 and had been extended day to day. The union on Friday gave 72 hours notice to cancel the contract extension – a mandatory step before a walkout – but continued negotiating over the weekend. Ralphs announced it was prepared to close its stores if there was a strike.

“We are pleased to have reached a tentative settlement agreement with the union that continues to preserve good wages, secure pensions and access to quality, affordable health care – while allowing us to be competitive in the marketplace,” the grocery chains said in a combined statement.

Ralphs is owned by Kroger Co. of Cincinnati; Vons and Pavilions are owned by Safeway Inc. of Pleasanton, Calif.; and Albertsons is owned by SuperValu Inc. of Eden Prairie, Minn.

For reprint and licensing requests for this article, CLICK HERE.