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How essential do you have to be? B.C. union speaks out as workers lose pandemic pay

Last Updated May 28, 2020 at 6:41 pm PDT

Summary

Some grocery stores are dropping their pandemic pay bonus programs, despite COVID-19 continuing to be a threat

Save on Foods is ending pandemic bonus pay for workers this week

B.C. won't include essential workers in wage increase program as private bonuses curtailed

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) — With more people back at work in retail and restaurants, some grocery store chains are dropping their COVID-19 pandemic bonus programs.

Save On Foods won’t continue its $2-per-hour bonuses after May 30, while Loblaws has extended its program until mid-June.

“The announcement was a shock and a disappointment to union members who have been working hard on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic,” says UFCW 1518, the union representing Save On foods workers, in a statement.

“As British Columbia re-opens and businesses begin to navigate new regulations and business practices, there is tremendous uncertainty about the future and the safety of front line workers,” says the statement.

Meanwhile, the Retail Council of Canada’s Greg Wilson has spoken with Black Press Media, calling for the province to reconsider its decision to keep grocery and hardware store staff out of the federal essential workers “top-up” program.

That fund was announced in April, with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau saying on May 7, “it will be up to each province and territory to determine who exactly qualifies for this wage increase but the bottom line is this; if you are risking your health to keep this country moving and you’re making minimum wage, you deserve a raise.”

B.C.’s Ministry of Finance says corrections, healthcare, and social services workers will receive the pay increase of $4 an hour, but that physical distancing and workplace safety measures should be able to keep retail workers safe.

“BC is only beginning to relax its pandemic response, and the crisis is far from over, especially for front line workers,” says UFCW 1518 President Kim Novak. “There remains a lot of uncertainty around what could happen in the coming months. Meanwhile, Save-On-Foods members continue to assume risks by showing up to work every day. Ongoing recognition for that commitment is the least these workers deserve. It is just too soon to end the Pandemic Premium.”