Retailers in southern California have avoided strike action at their stores after union officials and supermarket chiefs negotiated an agreement over contracts.

The United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) union said yesterday (19 September) that it had reached a “tentative” agreement with retail chains Ralphs, Vons and Albertsons following days of talks.

Last week the union was on the cusp of industrial action in a row over changes to healthcare provision in contracts proposed by the retailers, which are owned by Kroger, Safeway Inc and SuperValu Inc respectively.

A UFCW statement said members will vote on the new proposals over the coming week. The agreement, which covers 62,000 workers, increases wages and protects health care and pension benefits throughout the life of a three-year contract.

“We are pleased to reach an agreement that provides our associates with pay increases, high quality affordable health care, and a company-funded pension that maintains current retirement benefits,” said Bruce Macaulay, president of Kroger’s Columbus division. “This is a good contract that rewards our associates and will help us be competitive in a tough economy.”