A strike by tens of thousands of central and southern California grocery employees was averted Monday after the workers’ union reached a tentative deal with several major supermarket chains.

The new three-year contract includes higher wages, stronger health benefits, guaranteed hours for part-time workers, improved store safety and a secured pension, the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union said in a statement.

The union said exact details won’t be released until its members vote on the deal starting this week.

“This is a great agreement that will help turn grocery store jobs around and make tangible improvements in our lives,” said Rachel Fournier, a cashier at a Los Angeles Ralphs store and a bargaining committee member.

About 47,000 workers at hundreds of Ralphs, Albertsons, Vons and Pavilions stores voted last week to authorize a strike if an agreement wasn’t reached. They include grocery clerks, meat cutters, pharmacists and pharmacy technicians represented by seven locals of the UFCW.

Officials with Kroger, which owns Ralphs, and Albertsons, owner of Albertsons, Vons and Pavilions stores, didn’t immediately comment on the agreement.

The previous three-year contract expired March 6. Employees were asking for a $5-an-hour raise, among other proposals.

The union previously said that during negotiations it emphasized the essential role grocery workers played during the coronavirus pandemic.

Employees of Ralphs, Vons, Pavilions and Albertsons in 2019 voted to authorize a strike, but contracts ultimately were reached without a walkout.

A 2003-04 strike and lockout put nearly 70,000 Southern California grocery workers on picket lines for more than four months.