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Union, owner of 6 Key Foods negotiate pension, health plans

From left, union members Joan Holstein, Bob Lazaro

From left, union members Joan Holstein, Bob Lazaro and Jeff Mauser hand out flyers to shoppers regarding contract negotiations with Pick Quick Key Food Inc. in front of the Key Food store on Ocean Avenue in Rockville Centre on Friday, April 22, 2016. Credit: Howard Schnapp

More than 425 union supermarket workers at six Key Food stores in Long Island and Brooklyn have been working without a contract as negotiations with the owner focus on proposed changes to their pension plan and health insurance, both sides said.

On Friday, union members handed out leaflets to customers outside the six stores about their position.

Westbury-based United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local 1500 has been in contract negotiations with Pick Quick Key Food Inc., a member of the Key Food’s cooperative operating six stores. Local 1500, along with Local 342, represents 170 workers at the Floral Park and Rockville Centre Key Food stores, Pick Quick’s two locations on Long Island. The union contract expired March 26.

Pick Quick Key Food’s owner Benjamin J. Levine said he wants to freeze employees’ pension benefits and move both full-time and part-time employees into a 401(k) retirement savings plan, and is seeking to modify the health insurance plan for employees and their families. Management plans to discuss potential wage increases once the pension issue is settled, Levine said.

“It is incredibly important to us to provide a savings vehicle that allows our employees to prepare for retirement, and we need to make sure it is the right tool for today’s times,” Levine said in a statement.

Union officials said the company’s offer would essentially take away workers’ pensions and increase their share of medical costs.

“We are looking to get an agreement,” said Local 1500 secretary-treasurer Tony Speelman, who is leading the negotiations. “We are not looking to strike.”

There are 21 stores on Long Island under the Key Food cooperative.

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