Hazard pay for frontline workers continues at most island businesses, but not all
VICTORIA -- Essential workers across Vancouver Island have been showing up to work since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic and many of them are being compensated for adapting to the new environment.
CTV News Vancouver Island confirmed on Tuesday that Save-On-Foods was moving away from their pandemic pay of $2 per hour and was instead offering staff members 10 per cent off grocery bills or 30 times their ‘More Rewards’ points.
A professor at the University of Victoria’s Gustavson School of Business says the pay was an incentive to keep employees coming to work.
“It was deemed suitable to pay people extra because of the fact that they were going to encounter dangers and hazards,” said Dr. Mark Colgate.
In the months of March and April, grocery stores were booming with skyrocketing sales.
“Grocery stores were really busy, people were panic buying, sales were going through the roof and they could afford to pay the $2,” he said.
Meanwhile, other grocery stores have also been offering unique incentives for employees.
Red Barn Market is paying an extra $2 per hour to employees on store gift cards. The company says that no end date for the gift card program has been determined yet.
Grocery chain Quality Foods says that it will continue to pay $2 per hour extra until the end of 2020.
Meanwhile, Country Grocery is implementing a bonus structure for staff, giving $100 a week to full times staff, and $75 to $50 per week for part time staff. No end date for the weekly bonuses has been set yet.
Other essential services are also providing bonuses to employees amid the pandemic.
Liquor Depot is offering an additional $3 per hour until June 15. The company says it will reassess the wage increase at that date.
At Canadian Tire, staff are receiving an extra $2 an hour and a spokesperson said there is no end date determined yet.
“Obviously, there is a bit of competition now for the best employees,” said Colgate. “Because this is not regulated, some companies have chosen to pay... and some are asking the customers to pay.”
Save-On-Foods is being criticized for stopping the wage increase by the union representing its staff. Meanwhile, more than 3,000 people have sent letters to the company’s president complaining about switch.
UFCW 1518 president Kim Novak said the change is happening too soon.
“They never signed up to be on the frontlines of a pandemic,” said Novak. “We are still in this crisis. It is far from over and that is all the more reason not to forget the critical work that these workers are doing across the province.”
A Save-On-Foods media spokesperson said in an email statement on Monday that the pandemic pay was always meant to be temporary.
One person who said they work at Save-On-Foods in Victoria said that staff were notified of the change on March 23. The switch will take place at the end of May.
“Everyone knows this was temporary but maybe taking it away very quickly is what has created the unfairness,” said Colgate.
CTV News reached out to Save-On-Foods again on Tuesday to see if they would reconsider the decision after hearing what other businesses were doing. As of Tuesday evening, no one was available for comment.