Friday , January 15 2021

The return of COVID premiums at Sobeys… but not at us.

Food giant Empire Company, Sobeys’ parent company (IGA), is renewing bonuses for its front-line employees in Manitoba and parts of Ontario due to new containment. In Quebec, no similar measures are on the table for employees.

On Thursday Globe and Mail reported that the Canadian company, which operates here under the IGA banner, intends to offer bonuses to its workers in Toronto and Peel, Ontario. This COVID-19 bonus will also be available to all of the company’s Manitoba employees.

These amounts, which will represent an additional amount ranging from $10 to $100 more per week, depending on the number of hours worked, will be paid temporarily every two months. For Empire, this could represent a bill of $5 million per quarter.

Joined by The JournalIn the case of Quebec, management said it was “closely monitoring the situation” for Quebec, without specifying its intentions towards workers. “We are going to do what is best for our employees and our customers”.

At the time of the first containment, Empire had offered its front line employees an additional $2.00 per hour for several weeks. The Loblaw and Metro chains had also offered financial incentives.

The United Food and Commercial Workers Union (UFCW), which represents many employees in IGAs, welcomes the return of premiums in Canadian supermarkets. However, management hopes that this movement will also affect Quebec.

Full containment

According to union spokesperson Roxane Larouche, Empire made a commitment when it appeared before the House of Commons Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology this summer to reintroduce the premiums if cities were once again fully contained.

“For this company, the rule is clear, there has to be complete containment,” says Mme Larouche. “It’s sure we’re still putting pressure on the big banners. The demand is there for the bonus,” she notes.

She said that her organization is also working to improve wages and conditions in anticipation of the renewal of collective agreements.

Last June, the majority of major food chains had stopped paying bonuses to front-line workers when operations gradually resumed. Walmart had also abandoned this measure on May 31.

According to an internal note obtained by Le Journal, Metro plans to distribute in December, as a token of thanks to all its front-line employees who have worked in its stores and distribution centres over the past 8 weeks, gift cards for its establishments in the amounts of $75, $150 and $300, depending on the number of hours worked.

Metro management chose not to comment, but stated that this measure “is not related to a pandemic bonus”.

Lowe’s never stopped

UFCW union spokesperson Roxane Larouche says Lowe’s, owner of RONA and Réno-Dépôt, is one of the few retailers to have maintained COVID-19 bonus payments since the spring.

“In April, the company gave $300 to full-time workers and $150 to part-time employees. From May to July, there was the $2. Between August and November, the $150 or $300 bonus came back every month,” she says.

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