Kroger's King Soopers union workers approve new contract

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Feb 1 (Reuters) - Workers at nearly 80 King Soopers, owned by Kroger Co (KR.N), approved a new three-year contract, the Colorado-based chain said on Tuesday, ending a stalemate that had caused a 10-day strike at the start of the year.

King Soopers will invest $170 million in wage increases through the life of the agreement, with additional health-care investments.

The union had planned to strike from Jan. 12 until early February for better wages and working conditions but called it off on Jan. 21 after reaching a tentative deal. read more

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Union President Kim Cordova said the deal followed several days of negotiations and the possibility of a sympathy strike by stores in California and Seattle.

A document seen by Reuters showed per-hour raises ranged between $1.23 and $5.99 in the first year. The union said over 95% of the workers will get increases of $2 or more in the first year, with around 250 pharmacy technicians eligible for the highest bump.

The union had initially sought a raise of at least $6 in the first year of the contract for all workers, while King Soopers had proposed increases of up to $4.50 based on job classification and tenure.

"Contract negotiations always involve a give and take from both sides ... you will never have a situation where one side walks away with everything they want," said Helen Rella, an employment attorney at Wilk Auslander.

The deal was accepted by 99% of workers in some locations, Cordova said, adding the union "fixed a lot of things that needed to be fixed."

But not everyone was happy with the contract.

"The raise was definitely disappointing. My biggest gripe about the contract, though, is honestly the lack of decent wages for entry-level employees," said a worker who requested anonymity.

Another worker said he was let down as the union did not meet its original goal of getting a raise of $6 per hour in the first year.

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Reporting by Praveen Paramasivam in Bengaluru; Editing by Krishna Chandra Eluri

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