METHUEN — Shaw’s Supermarkets Inc. has begun hiring permanent replacements for striking employees at its Methuen distribution center.
Spokeswoman Judy Chong said, “We’re extremely disappointed that it has come down to this. But as we continue to weather the strike, our obligation is to protect our business and the livelihoods of the other 25,000 associates in New England.’’
Shaw’s has 176 stores, in every New England state but Connecticut.
Peter Derouen, a spokesman for the United Food and Commercial Workers Union, Local 791, said the company has taken the dispute to a “new level.’’
“Many of these men and women have worked at the warehouse for many years,’’ he said. “By threatening to bring in replacement workers, Shaw’s is jeopardizing the livelihoods of hundreds of workers and their families.’’
He said that since workers rejected what Shaw’s said was its best offer, the company has refused to negotiate. The company denies that.
Chong said the company does not have a timeline for when the permanent replacement workers will begin work at the Methuen distribution center.
She added that the chain is not legally obligated to fire permanent replacement workers to make room for striking associates if they decide to return to work.
About 300 employees went on strike March 7 after rejecting a combination of increases in wages and health care payments they said would cost them money long-term.
Both sides are working with a federal mediator.