NORTHAMPTON, MA (WGGB/WSHM) -- For more than a week, many of the employees of Stop and Shop have been striking outside grocery stores across western Massachusetts.
As the negotiations close on day nine, we have an update on some of the concerns and issues facing both strikers and customers.
The contract for these workers expired in February. Now, in April, both sides have been coming to the table to create a new contract for those represented by UFCW Local 1459.
However, in this process, we're told some employees have crossed the picket line to return to work, while other locations have been accused of unsavory picketing tactics.
We reached out to the union for a statement. They did not get back to us.
One of the representatives, however, addressed some of those concerns in video posted to Facebook.
"The company responded with our proposal by saying that 'Well, what the number is what the number is.' We think there's still below where they need to be at, still basically a concessionary contract," said UFCW Local 1459 president Tyrone Housey.
In this video posted on the UFCW Local 1459 Facebook page, Housey said the negotiations for contract benefits with Stop and Shop are still a work in progress.
"The company wants to come in at a specific number for savings. We're trying to get there, but also maintain our benefit. We want to maintain our benefits, our current benefits without taking reductions and pay," Housey added.
Stop and Shop spokesperson Jennifer Brogan said in a statement late Friday: "Stop & Shop and the five UFCW local unions are continuing negotiations into the evening. We remain focused on reaching fair new agreements that provide market-leading wages, excellent health benefits for eligible associates and increased pension contributions for all of our associates."
For the workers who are giving up their shifts to strike, Housey said they've installed a financial cushion.
"We have a strike fund, and we also have a hardship fund, so as far as the strikers go, there's going to be money that is going to be put into that account, so we can distribute funds for the picketers," Housey said.
For those who have made the decision to cross the picket line and return to work, Stop and Shop said: "We have work for associates who want to come back to the stores, and they can check with their store manager about hours. There are associates who have returned to work already."
In the meantime, Housey said that the company has made a formal complaint about the picketer's behavior.
"I don't want you to feel that you can't engage the customer, but continue to engage customers for our support, ask them not to shop there, but we don't want to harass and get in any kind of legal trouble," Housey added.