Loblaws will be ending pandemic pay for workers at its retail stores across the country. The move will affect workers at its Shoppers Drug Mart, Superstore and No Frills stores.
According to Unifor, one of several unions representing Loblaws workers, the company will be ending the $2 per hour boost in pay, which was given in recognition of their status as essential workers during the pandemic, beginning this weekend. Instead of continuing to receive the pay, they will be given a one-time bonus in July based on their hours of work. Unifor says that bonus works out to $160 for a worker who works a 40-hour week.
At press time, a spokesperson for Loblaw Companies Ltd. was not immediately available to respond to an email request for comment from NOW. The company reported 11 per cent hike in revenue the first quarter this year.
The company announced the temporary pay raise back in late March. Company executive chair Galen Weston acknowledged at the time workers’ “outstanding and ongoing efforts keeping our stores open.” At the time, the company was in contract talks with workers in its grocery stores.
Unifor national president Jerry Dias says in a statement released this afternoon that the danger posed by the pandemic is not over for workers. He points out that Loblaws continues to enforce social distancing measures in its stores. (Its Christie and Dupont grocery store had to be closed back in mid-May after “several” workers tested positive for COVID-19.)
“These workers are no less at risk and are no less essential today than they were yesterday. There is no justification for ending pandemic pay,” says Dias.
Dias’s statement goes on to say that “The pandemic did not make these workers essential and did not create the inequities in retail, it simply exposed them.” And notes that Loblaws has consistently opposed efforts to raise the minimum wage and instead moved more workers to part-time.
Unifor has been part of an effort to make the current pay rate for retail workers permanent, noting in an online petition to the heads of all Canada’s major retail chains that reductions in fulltime jobs in the sector have forced workers to take on multiple part-time positions at numerous stores to make ends meet. Dias raises the spectre of the risk of more outbreaks with workers moving between jobs.
“We have seen in long term care how dangerous it is for these essential workers to be bouncing between jobs. It’s no different in retail,” Dias says.