Pharmacists’ Strike Averted at Grocery Store Chain, Both Sides Agree to Federal Mediation
A federal mediator has joined contract negotiations between Raley's supermarket chain and its pharmacists, who have been without a contract since Sunday, when an extension of the previous contract expired, the Stockton Record reports. Raley's 170 pharmacists, technicians and clerks, as well as 70 temporary workers, are represented by the Independent Pharmacists Association. The union voted on Aug. 4 to authorize a strike (Goldeen, Stockton Record, 9/5). The strike was called off on Sept. 3 when representatives from Raley's and the union agreed to resume negotiations (Ferraro, Sacramento Bee, 9/4). However, the union still could authorize a strike if the two sides fail to reach a contract agreement (Stockton Record, 9/5). The supermarket chain and the union are "struggling" to resolve issues concerning retiree health benefits, hourly wages, sick leave policy and pension payments. The union is seeking health benefits for retired pharmacists conmensurate with those they received while employed, noting that the supermarket provides retiree health coverage for other employees. According to IPA President Michael Ureda, Raley's has proposed only that pharmacists be permitted to purchase their own retiree health benefits (Sacramento Bee, 9/4).
The union also is seeking a change in sick leave policy for pharmacists. According to Ureda, Raley's policy requires pharmacists to "report to work until a replacement can be found." But Carolyn Konrad, a spokesperson for Raley's, disputed Ureda's interpretation of the policy, saying the company does not want pharmacists "to work when they are ill." However, she added that employees must "use their sick-leave availability professionally." Konrad did not say when a settlement between the union and the company could be expected. Bill Bradley, a spokesperson for the California Pharmacists Association, said that if a strike does occur, "there is no possible way" that Raley's would be able to find replacement pharmacists quickly. But Konrad said the supermarket has a plan in place for serving its 100,000 pharmacy customers in the event of a strike (Stockton Record, 9/5).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.