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Co-op, Workers Approve Contract

Union employees and the management council of the Hunger Mountain Co-op voted to approve a new three-year contract that calls for a 3.4 percent wage increase in each year of the agreement.

The new contract ends a seven-month dispute over pay, but the parties were unable to reach an agreement regarding the co-op’s practice of allowing managers to perform operational duties, such as running checkout counters. The employees, who are members of United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers of America Local 255, oppose that policy and have filed a grievance to seek a resolution. Employees have said that allowing managers to perform operational duties is a way to avoid hiring additional workers or giving more hours to existing union workers.

The deal calls for a 21-cent increase in each wage tier this year and 22 cents in each of the next two years of the contract. That raises the minimum hourly rate for Co-op workers to $13.26 an hour, although 75 percent of non-manager employees make more than that, Co-op General Manager Kari Bradley said. The average and median wage rises to $17.01 and $16.66, respectively. The highest wage for a bargaining unit employee is about $24, Bradley said.

No changes were made to the employee health insurance plan, in which the Co-op pays 100 percent of premiums. The Co-op pays about $1 million a year in health care costs, Bradley said.