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September 24, 2011 | 11:26 pm

Members of Southern California’s grocery union voted to ratify a new contract with Ralphs, Vons and Albertsons on Saturday night, bringing an end to labor negotiations that dragged on for more than eight months and brought tens of thousands of workers to the verge of a strike.

The new contract, said union leaders, will help ensure workers at Ralphs, Albertsons and Vons and Pavilions will stay on the job, and prevent a potentially devastating blow to the state’s already shaky economy.

The results came just days after officials from the region’s United Food and Commercial Workers union struck a tentative deal with the three big supermarket chains. Workers cast their ballots on Friday and Saturday, said officials.

“This deal protects our members’ health care and pension, and provides modest increases in wages,” Rick Icaza, president of UFCW Local 770 in Los Angeles, said in a statement Saturday night.

“This is a win for grocery workers, our communities, and our local economy. Without the unity and determination of our members, this deal would not have been possible. And without the unwavering support of consumers and the community, it would have been a much tougher fight. To those supporters, thank you,” Icaza said.

Kendra Doyel, a spokeswoman for Ralphs, said, “Ralphs is glad the contract has been ratified and we look forward to doing what our great people do best: serving our customers.”

Representatives of the union and the three grocery chains reached the tentative deal after negotiating more than 24 hours straight. The talks had grown increasingly urgent after a deadline for a possible strike passed last weekend.

A sticking point dealt with healthcare funding: how much each side would have to pay to ensure that a healthcare trust fund covering workers would be economically viable for the long term.

Under the complicated deal, according to people familiar with the negotiations, grocery workers will pay $7 a week for individual coverage and $15 a week for a family starting next April. The grocers had said these premiums were necessary to help offset rising medical costs.

The vote tallies were not immediately disclosed. But officials of two of the seven UFCW locals said both the turnout and support of the deal were high.

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