- Kroger announced Wednesday that it plans to extend two employee benefits it currently offers across the combined Kroger-Albertsons enterprise if the proposed merger goes through.
- Kroger’s continuing education reimbursement program and financial coaching tool would extend to more than 700,000 part- and full-time workers and build on Kroger’s previously stated commitment to invest $1 billion to raise wages and provide benefits.
- The announcement marks the latest effort by Kroger to shine a positive light on its proposed $24.6 billion merger with Albertsons, which is currently under regulatory review.
Kroger’s education benefit offers up to $21,000 of reimbursement towards higher learning or continued development. Since the program’s launch in 2018, more than 15,000 associates have participated, using the funding to pursue high school equivalency exams, professional certifications or advanced degrees, according to the announcement.
The Goldman Sachs Ayco financial coaching tool, meanwhile, enables salaried and hourly associates to access coaches and online tools to create savings plans, learn to avoid common financial pitfalls and best utilize company benefits.
Kroger CEO Rodney McMullen noted that these benefits represent “one small part of the world-class benefits plan we offer,” as the company continues to showcase advantages it can offer if clearance is given to the proposed merger.
Consumers, unions and politicians have expressed concerns over the impacts the proposed mega-merger could have on jobs. Earlier this year, the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW) formally came out against the deal, while the Teamsters followed suit shortly after.
McMullen and Albertsons CEO Vivek Sankaran have offered reassurances, noting that the deal will not result in any layoffs among frontline workers. At the end of July, McMullen and Albertsons CEO Vivek Sankaran told The Denver Post the combined companies would pay retirement pension funds for employees and respect existing union contracts.
The executives have tried to put a positive spin on the merger in interviews and posts over the past several months in an effort to ease public concerns — and perhaps those of regulators, as well. McMullen recently posted a video on his LinkedIn page announcing Kroger’s renewed commitment to bolstering healthy food access benefits. He wrote in the post that “[f]ollowing the close of our proposed merger with Albertsons Co., the combined company will donate 10 billion meals to families across America by 2030.”