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Loblaw to end pandemic pay for frontline workers, sparking union anger

Loblaw announced today that it will be ending the $2 per hour pay bump put in place for employees amid the pandemic and Unifor is expressing its disapproval.
Sam Edwards High Level, Alberta

Loblaw announced today that it will be ending the $2 per hour pay bump put in place for employees working amid the pandemic and Unifor is expressing its disapproval. The union says the pay bump is set to end this weekend, reports CTV News.

"The pandemic is not over. The danger has not passed. 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 now, or ever," said Jerry Dias, the Unifor National President, in a news release.

“As the economy slowly reopens and Canadians begin to return to work, we believe it is the right time to end the temporary pay premium we introduced at the beginning of the pandemic,” Loblaw’s Executive Chairman Galen Weston said in a customer newsletter.

“Things have now stabilized in our supermarkets and drug stores. After extending the premium multiple times, we are confident our colleagues are operating safely and effectively in a new normal.”

The store introduced the pay bump in order to compensate employees working during the peak of the coronavirus pandemic, while many customers loaded up on supplies in a panic.

“My heartfelt thanks to every one of our colleagues for their incredible efforts during the peak of the crisis,” wrote Weston.

Unifor said the company still plans to give a one-time bonus to workers in July based on how many hours they worked. A full time worker will receive a bonus of around $160.

A pay bump was handed out by many companies at the height of the pandemic to ensure grocery stores, hospitals and other essential services could remain open. Labour advocates are asking for the changes to become permanent.

"Retail workers have always been essential, and they have always deserved much better. The fact is, the pandemic did not make these workers essential and did not create the inequities in retail, it simply exposed them,” Dias said.

A large number of companies took a heavy financial hit as a result of the pandemic but Loblaw’s was able to see a 21 percent increase in profits in the first quarter this year compared to the first quarter last year. Its net earnings were $240 million in the first quarter this year—a $42 million increase over 2019’s first quarter.

Weston added that many see Loblaw’s as “one of Canada’s best places to work” and said he’d be in favour of a government led “progressive minimum wage.”

Sam Edwards
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