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About 31,000 workers are returning to their grocery-store jobs across New England after the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) announced over Easter weekend a tentative agreement with the owners of the Stop & Shop chain.

Represented by UFCW Locals 328, 371, 919, 1445 and 1459, these men and women had been on picket lines in Massachusetts, Connecticut and Rhode Island since April 11.

The three-year agreement must be ratified by the membership. The locals stated the pact preserves health care and retirement benefits, provides wage increases and maintains time-and-a-half pay for current members working on Sundays.

Many MTD affiliates – as well as the department itself – sent contributions and/or aid to the striking workers. The Boston and New England Area Port Maritime Council, led by President Gerard Dhooge, hit the bricks in support of the strikers.

“We are incredibly grateful to our customers and everyone who proudly stood together with us every day for a contract that invests in the communities we serve, and makes Stop & Shop a better place to work and a better place to shop,” declared the UFCW locals in a joint statement.

According to the UFCW website, the company – Netherlands-based Ahold Delhaize (which also owns the strongly anti-union Food Lion chain) – was seeking to cut pension benefits by more than 70 percent, raise healthcare premiums by nearly 90 percent and exclude spouses from healthcare coverage.