The union representing workers at Kroger grocery stores across Colorado announced Monday that it was ending the agreement to have employees keep working under an expired contract, taking steps toward a possible strike after failed negotiations.

The United Food and Commercial Workers Local 7, which represents 12,200 union members working at King Soopers and City Market stores across Colorado, ended a contract extension Monday that kept employees working under the previous collective bargaining agreement.

That agreement started expiring at stores across the state in January, about a month after union representatives started negotiations with the company for a new agreement. Information from Union President Kim Cordova indicated that the negotiations had taken place with Kroger's corporate attorney and had not been fruitful to this point. The last contract extension was granted on Jan. 9.

According to a written release from the union, the parties have made "little progress in the negotiations, and remain far apart on a wide variety of critical issues." Those issues include improvements to workplace safety, seniority protections, better sick pay and vacation benefits and prior experience credits for military service.

Some of the proposals that workers have asked the company to provide include family leave, lunch vouchers for shifts longer than five hours, increasing night premium pay by $3 per hour, getting time and a half pay for holiday work and training and apprenticeship programs for the pharmacy, meat and deli sections.

Negotiations between Kroger and union representatives were scheduled to begin again Monday afternoon at the Denver Marriott Tech Center.

The union's withdrawal of the contract extension doesn't mean a strike is necessarily imminent. However, if Kroger makes a final offer and the union membership votes to reject that offer, it could lay the groundwork for a possible strike.

Union representatives didn't respond to requests for comment Monday.

The union's withdrawal of the contract extension for City Market workers doesn't affect workers at Safeway, who are also represented by the Local 7 union.

However, Safeway and Albertson's grocery store contracts are also under negotiation in Colorado, according to the Local 7.

Parties met for a six-day negotiating session with Safeway and Albertson's, which are owned by the same company, earlier this month, and union representation reported that limited progress was made.

In those negotiations, union representatives have demanded the company eliminate a two- tier wage and benefit system but the company has not agreed to do so at this time.

Negotiations with Safeway have produced some tentative agreements, according to the union, including expanding bereavement leave, addressing time clock malfunctions and expanding a Sabbath Day conscientious objection to Albertson's employees.

Union negotiators are meeting with Safeway representatives today in Denver.

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