Unifor leading call for retail worker protections and wage premiums

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Thank you retail workers

March 23, 2020

TORONTO – Unifor calls on all retailers to match wage premiums and enhanced health and safety protocols in recognition of front-line service workers during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We recognize the tremendous risk workers are taking and thank them for their dedication during these unprecedented times,” said Jerry Dias, Unifor National President. “Unifor continues to call on retailers to recognize the importance of their front-line workers and to compensate them fairly during the crisis.”

The union’s advocacy efforts for adequate protective gear, wage premiums, and sick leave benefit improvements have created a ripple effect across the country. Unifor members working for Rexall were the first to receive wage premiums and shortly thereafter Unifor worked with Loblaw, Metro, and Sobeys who announced similar initiatives. Now, more than 15,000 Unifor retail workers will receive a $2 dollar wage premium and enhanced health and safety protocol for front-line staff. New protocols include plexiglas protective barriers, social distancing measures and commitment to wage and benefit protection during layoffs.

“The voice of unions is clearly crucial to ensuring workers’ rights are protected during the COVID-19 crisis,” said Lana Payne, Unifor Secretary-Treasurer. “Too often we hear about workplace injury as a result of employers cutting corners – now more than ever, the risk is too high for complacency.”

Unifor encourages all employers choosing to remain open to follow-suit and provide workers with wage premiums and appropriate health and safety measures. Front-line workers are taking extraordinary risk while performing their crucial services in order to serve Canadians.

“All employers choosing to remain open during the outbreak have a legal responsibility to provide a safe working environment,” said Dias. “Retail workers deserve recognition and gratitude for their brave service during this pandemic. The actions employers take now will impact what’s to come, and we are all watching.”

The union published a list of necessary policy recommendations to address workers’ safety and well-being as sweeping layoffs and the threat of exposure continues to climb. While government programs are a start, Canada still lags behind many other countries in providing income top-ups and development of a robust economic response to COVID-19.

Safety is top priority, particularly in sectors that require exposure to the public. Unifor released a series of information sheets outlining the unique impacts COVID-19 is having on sector-specific workforces.

Unifor launched a comprehensive hub for information about the pandemic at unifor.org/COVID19 and encourages all members to visit the site regularly for updates.

For media inquiries please contact National Communications Representative, Paul Whyte at @email or 647-221-9343 (cell).