PARIS, IL. (WTHI) - A long-time employee of Kroger is publicly protesting the company’s recent decision to scrap health insurance for spouses, effective January 1.
"I feel like I've been a loyal, dedicated employee. And how do they reward you? There comes a contract, I guess, and they pull your spousal insurance right off the table,” said Robert “Bob” Young, a 40-year employee of the Kroger store in his native Paris, IL.
Young, 58, had been looking forward to retirement at the age of 60; now, though, with such a costly cut facing the Youngs in the new year, Bob says he’ll likely stay with Kroger until the age of 62, possibly even 65.
On August 8, union members in Bob Young’s region voted overwhelmingly to ratify a new collective bargaining agreement with Kroger, according to John Elliott, the grocery giant’s public affairs manager in the Indianapolis office.
Elliott told News 10 the elimination of spousal health insurance was necessary to spare a health benefits plan that was grossly under-funded. Elliott admitted that funding perks like employee pensions is also a challenge, even for giant corporations like Kroger.
As much as veteran workers like Bob Young lament the loss of such a benefit, Kroger is quick to point out it is still offering dental and vision benefits to husbands and wives of its employees. Additionally, Kroger is offering a $1,000 cash stipend to affected employees like Young to help ease the transition to outside health insurance coverage; and finally, John Elliott said, Kroger is awarding pay increases to all of its store associates.
Still, that’s small consolation to hard-working Kroger devotees like Bob Young and his wife, Nancy, a retired Kroger long-timer herself. Bob said he’s not ashamed of speaking out against this cost-cutting measure; nor does he fear reprisal for going public. In fact, he’d welcome a face-to-face with Kroger’s main man in charge.
"He's losing site of his older employees,” Young offered. "And I think he's hurting the company at the same time. He's sending the wrong message to all the employees that's been there for such a long time!"
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