VICTORIA -- Western Canadian grocery chain Save-On-Foods has rescinded its hazard pay for frontline workers during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The company said Tuesday it has “transitioned to another form of recognition” and is instead offering staff either 10 per cent off their grocery bill or extra points through the company’s More Rewards discount program.

In March, the company announced it was paying its workers an additional $2 per hour during the COVID-19 pandemic, retroactive to March 8.

The pay increase was in recognition of grocery workers’ efforts to keep store shelves stocked and the public fed while coping with the stresses of the coronavirus pandemic.

“Our team members understand that this bonus pay was temporary and designed to be paid during the height of the pandemic and the value of this new team member discount program far exceeds the value of the short-term hourly bonus,” a Save-On-Foods representative said in a statement when asked about the change on Tuesday.

The company said it will offer staff the option of a 10 per cent grocery discount or 30 times their More Rewards points until at least the end of the year.

“Our team members are our most valuable assets and as we have in the recent months, we will continue to recognize them for their over and above efforts in unique ways with gift cards, free products and ongoing exclusive team member offers,” the company said. 

Workers at Save-On-Foods say they appreciate the grocery discount, but were blindsided and disappointed by the loss of hazard pay.

“I was shocked when they notified us,” said union president Kim Novak. “I anticipated it was going to continue for a period of time.”

“It’s too soon. We’re only in the early days of phase 2 in our province, and our premier said just a couple of weeks ago we’re far from out of the woods. At a time when there is a lot of uncertainty, we are strongly urging Save-on-Foods and all employers to keep on paying this pandemic pay and extend it out.”

The union, UFCW 1518, is now calling on the company to reinstate the hazard pay. 

Save-On-Foods has 178 stores across Western Canada.

Meanwhile, some grocery store chains continue to offer additional wages during the pandemic across Canada.

Quality Foods president Noel Hayward told CTV News that the company will continue paying their employees an additional $2 per hour until the end of the year.

“Our philosophy is to take care of the people, your customers and the community and you’ll have long-term loyalty,” said Hayward.