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Loblaws wrong to cut pandemic pay

June 11, 2020 - 12:00 AM

TORONTO – Unifor opposes the decision by Loblaw Companies Ltd. to end pandemic pay for workers at its retail outlets across Canada.

“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,” Unifor National President Jerry Dias said.

“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.”

Loblaw announced that it will be ending the $2 premium paid to workers in its grocery stores effective this weekend, and will pay workers a small one-time bonus in July based on their hours of work. The bonus would be $160 for a worker on a 40-hour week.

Unifor is leading efforts to make fair pay permanent as the country slowly emerges from the pandemic. The Fair Pay Forever campaign calls for historic inequities in the sector to be corrected. Many workers are forced to take more than one part-time job to get by.

“We have seen in long term care how dangerous it is for these essential workers to be bouncing between jobs. It’s no different in retail,” Dias said.

“We have a chance to fix this. We can’t let this opportunity pass.”

Dias pointed out that Loblaw, which has consistently opposed efforts to raise the minimum wage and instead moved more and more to part-time work, rightly continues to limit customers in its stores and enforce social distancing inside.

“Loblaw knows the risk is not over. It’s just trying to boost profits on the backs of its most vulnerable workers, and that’s just wrong,” Dias said.

“Unifor is putting all retail employers on notice – the return to normal for these workers is not happening, because normal was not good enough.”

Unifor is currently in negotiations with Loblaw-owned Dominion Stores in Newfoundland and Labrador, attempting to reverse a 2019 company decision to eliminate one in five full-time supermarket jobs. 

For media inquiries, please contact Unifor Communications representative Stuart Laidlaw:  stuart.laidlaw@unifor.org or 647-385-4054 (cell).