4 major Canadian grocers give front-line workers a raise during COVID-19 pandemic

Four major Canadian grocery chains have brought in wage increases for employees still working the cash registers and keeping the shelves stocked during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

Many stores have already announced they will be limiting hours and installing Plexiglas screens, while Metro, Loblaws and Empire companies also announced over the weekend they would be bumping up wages for front-line workers.

On Tuesday, Walmart Canada also announced pay increases.

Loblaw Companies Ltd., whose brands include Shoppers Drug Mart, Superstore and No Frills, announced a raise Saturday for workers for what executive chairman Galen Weston called their "outstanding and ongoing efforts keeping our stores open."

The company is temporarily increasing pay for store and distribution centre employees by 15 per cent, retroactive to March 8.

Although the novel coronavirus has resulted in several provinces declaring states of emergency and stores and businesses closing their doors, Weston said the opposite is true for them.

"Our supermarkets and pharmacies are performing well," he said in a statement. "And the leaders in our business wanted to make sure that a significant portion of that benefit would go straight into the pockets of the incredible people on the front line."

Paul Palmeter/CBC

In a release Saturday, the United Food and Commercial Workers union said they were happy "ongoing discussions with Loblaw" resulted in the raise, which works out to a bump of $2 an hour for both full-time and part-time workers.

The union represents more than 250,000 people across the country who work in all aspects of the food chain, health care, security and other sectors.

Metro Inc., which operates Food Basics, Jean Coutu, Metro and other brands, said Saturday its front-line people will also receive an extra $2 an hour retroactive to March 8.

On Sunday, Empire, which runs Sobeys, IGA, Safeway, Foodland and others, launched a temporary "hero pay program" for workers, who will receive an additional $50 a week.

All of those people who work more than 20 hours a week will receive an additional $2 premium for every hour they go over that line. These arrangements are retroactive to March 8, and employees will get their first payments in early April.

Michael Medline, Empire president and CEO, said in a statement the employees are "true local heroes" working in their communities to deliver essential services to Canadians.

"In times like these, enhanced compensation and support programs for those who need to care for themselves and their families are simply the right things to do," Medline wrote.

Maple Leaf Foods follows suit

Maple Leaf Foods Inc. says it will pay a weekly bonus to its hourly staff as it works to ensure production at its processing plants continues while other industries shut down in an effort to slow the COVID-19 pandemic.

The food processing company says it will pay a bonus of $80 a week in addition to regular and overtime pay to its hourly staff, who are working to maintain a safe supply of food.

The bonus comes as Maple Leaf also announced $2 million to support emergency food relief efforts and $2.5 million for a new fund to provide personal support to front-line health providers.

Amazon announces bump

Amazon has also raised wages by $2 per hour through the end of April for workers in their Canadian operations.

As well, all hourly associates will receive double their regular hourly rate for every overtime hour worked above a 40-hour workweek. The temporary increase in overtime pay kicks in March 15, and continues through May 9.

Walmart announces pay increase

On Tuesday, Walmart Canada announced new programs for their store and supply chain employees, including a March "appreciation bonus" of $200 for full-time workers and $100 for part-time ones.

They also brought in a $2 hourly pay bump for the same employees, which will be in effect from April 3-30, and a 10 per cent discount during two shopping days in April, which is on top of their regular employee discounts.

Walmart also announced two-week replacement pay for employees under mandated quarantine, and "additional supplemental income" for people required to stay home beyond two weeks.

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