More Canadian grocers to give pay raises amid coronavirus pandemic

Metro, Loblaws and Empire have all agreed to give their employees a financial bonus as they put themselves at risk in the midst of a pandemic.
Metro, Loblaws and Empire have all agreed to give their employees a financial bonus as they put themselves at risk in the midst of a pandemic.

Wages for grocery store employees have gone up at at least three of Canada's major chain grocers this week as they continue to stay open during the coronavirus pandemic.

Metro, Loblaws and Empire have all agreed to give their employees a financial bonus as they put themselves at risk in the midst of a pandemic.

Although many locations will limit their hours of operation, shelves still need to be stocked and cashiers must be available for customers during the outbreak.

Loblaw Companies Ltd., which also includes brands Shoppers Drug Mart, Superstore, and No Frills, made the announcement Saturday that their workers would receive a temporary raise for their, "outstanding and ongoing efforts keeping our stores open," chair Galen Weston said in a statement.

Employees of Loblaws will receive a 15 percent raise for the duration of the outbreak.

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

Although the novel coronavirus has resulted in several provinces declaring a state 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."

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

Additionally, 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.