Thirty-one thousand Stop & Shop workers across New England went on strike Thursday afternoon after what they called a failure to move forward in contract negotiations with the grocery store's parent company, Ahold Delhaize.

"They are a very profitable company, they made billions last year in sales and profits, and they're trying to destroy the health benefits and pensions of our hardworking members," said Jeff Bollen, the president of the union that represents Stop & Shop workers, in a statement.

The union has been in negotiations with the company since Jan. 14, they said, but have been at a standstill as workers push back against increased health care costs and reduced pensions.

"The proposed cuts by Stop & Shop, whose parent company earned $2 billion in profits in 2018, would devastate health care benefits, significantly increase health care costs, and decrease take home pay," the union said in a statement.

Stop & Shop said in a statement that the company is "disappointed" that the union decided to strike given that negotiations are still ongoing. They maintained that the new contracts would not cut any workers' pay, offers competitive health care benefits and would increase the company's contributions to the union's pension fund.

"We are committed to good faith bargaining and hope to reach new contracts as quickly as possible that both recognize and reward the great work of our associates and enable Stop & Shop to compete effectively in the rapidly changing New England grocery market," the statement read.

A Stop & Shop spokesperson told WGBH News Thursday afternoon that the company has deployed temporary workers and corporate personnel to the stores that were closed, and that they have reopened the stores in Somerville, Brookline, Dedham, South Bay Plaza and both in Quincy. They plan to reopen all locations during the strike, she said.

Kevin Joyce, the assistant produce manager at the Stop & Shop location on Harvard Street in Brookline, said Thursday this was his first time on a picket line but that the "concessions Stop & Shop has on the table are pretty steep."

Workers at the Brookline store began striking at 1 p.m. The store was reopened as of 3:30 p.m.

Joyce, who is 53 and has worked that Stop & Shop for 35 years, said the new concessions would reduce his holiday time, cause him to lose his wife's health care coverage and would raise the price of his insurance.

“I make a good living, but this fight is for the people who come after us,” Joyce said.

Joyce said over 100 workers are currently striking at the Brookline store.

Pat James, a front end supervisor at the same Brookline location who has worked there for close to eight years, said that she has been "waiting for this for a long time."

“We need to show them the little man wants to work, too, and they just need to be fair to us,” James said.

WGBH News' Anna Kusmer contributed to this report.