BOSTON (AP) – Shaw’s Supermarket employees at dozens of stores in Massachusetts and Rhode Island ratified a new contract on Saturday, ending the possibility of a strike after weeks of acrimony.

“It’s been a very long, tense and difficult couple of months of bargaining, with a lot of major issues on the table that needed to be addressed,” said Peter Derouen, spokesman for the United Food and Commercial Workers Local 791. “We’re just, obviously, glad that we were able to get a fair and equitable agreement for our members without having a labor dispute.”

Shaw’s spokesman Terrence Donilon also praised the agreement, saying that it provides for “excellent wages and affordable high-quality health care.”

“At the end of the day, we both realized how important it was to come to an agreement. This contract allows us to be even more competitive and to serve our customers even better,” he said.

Derouen said that during three voting sessions at a hotel in Mansfield on Saturday, 816 employees voted to approve the contract and 31 voted against. About a dozen ballots were thrown out because of irregularities.

Negotiators have been meeting since June to try to resolve differences over issues including health care costs, wages, work rules and pension benefits.

The worker’s contract, which covers about 5,600 employees at 25 Shaw’s stores in southeastern Massachusetts and 14 in Rhode Island, expired last weekend, and employees voted overwhelmingly last Sunday to authorize a strike.

Another smaller contract covering 350 workers at a Maine distribution center expired at the same time.

The union agreed to extend talks on both contracts for another five days, then struck the deal with Shaw’s late Thursday night, with the help of a federal mediator.

A tentative deal was also struck for the Maine workers’ contract.

Derouen said that the union prevailed in many of the issues that had been sticking points, such as the amount of employee health care contributions. For example, in the last year of the contract proposal that union rejected last weekend, employees would have contributed $45 per week toward family health care. Under the deal approved Saturday, employees will pay $22 per week toward the family plan.

He also said that the union won many provisions protecting employees, such as a provision dictating how much rest time employees get between shifts.

The workers in Maine will vote on their contract on Sunday.

Workers at other Shaw’s stores in Massachusetts, Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont are non-unionized and unaffected by the labor talks. Unionized Shaw’s employees in Connecticut are covered by a different local.

Shaw’s is owned by Boise, Idaho-based Albertsons Inc., one of the nation’s largest food and drug retailers.

On the Web:

AP-ES-08-07-04 2023EDT

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.