Employees at Nelson’s Save-On-Foods and other grocery stores are working in stressful conditions during the pandemic. Photo: Tyler Harper

Union calling for Save-On-Foods to extend COVID-19 worker incentive program

Save-On-Foods is ending its two-dollar-an-hour pay increase on May 30

A Union representing Save-On-Foods workers is saying it’s disappointed the company has decided to end an incentive program which saw workers hourly wages increase by two dollars during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The company’s “Pandemic Premium” program was announced in late March, with UFCW 1518 — the union which represents Save-On-Foods workers in the Province — initially praising the response.

However upon learning Save-On-Foods had decided to end the program late last week the organization issued a statement expressing their concern about the message cancelling the program sends to their workers as the Province braces for a potential second wave of COVID-19.

As the Province enters the second phase of its four-phase reopening plan many workers the organization said many workers still face uncertainly about their safety and the safety of their loved ones while working on the front lines of the pandemic. Premier John Horgan recently noted that “we are far from out of the woods” when it comes to COVID-19, while Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry has warned the public a second wave of the virus is likely.

“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.”

READ MORE: Save-On-Foods temporarily bans reusable shopping bags to reduce spread of COVID-19

Members of provincial parliament have echoed the statements in recent days. On May 25, Finance Minister Carole James called for retail businesses who have seen a boom in sales from COVID-19 to pass that good fortune onto their employees.

“I would encourage all businesses who’ve seen an increase in revenue to ensure that their workers are being properly compensated at this difficult time,” said James.

Black Press Media has reached out to Save-On-Foods for comment on how and why the decision to end the program was made.

Upon learning of the cancellation of the program UFCW 1518 said they immediately asked Save-On-Foods to reinstate it. On May 26 they announced a letter-writing campaign asking the public to send in letters of support to Save-On-Foods president Darrell Jones asking him to extend the incentives.

Currently the minimum wage in the province is $13.85 per hour, set to increase to $14.60 on June 1. Under this program a minimum wage worker would be making $15.85 an hour.

UFCW Local 1518 added it’s imperative to support essential workers on the front lines during these uncertain times and that they are taking risks just by going into work every day.

“The work that Save-On-Foods members are doing today is no different than the work they will be doing a week from now,” said Novak. “These workers are protecting everyone’s health and safety by maintaining enhanced sanitation procedures, observing physical distancing, and keeping shelves stocked. It is only fair to extend the Pandemic Premium as we continue to fight COVID-19.”

UFCW Local 1518 represents more than 24,000 union members working in the community health, hospitality, retail, grocery, industrial, and professional sectors across British Columbia.



trevor.hewitt@interior-news.com
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