Coronavirus: Grocery store workers should be ‘properly’ paid, Trudeau says

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Friday said grocery store employees should be “properly supported and paid” during the coronavirus pandemic.

“The people who step up in the midst of the most serious times to ensure Canadians can still put food on the table, that they get the deliveries they need, that shelves are stocked, that Canadians continue to be safe and fed are heroes of this pandemic,” he said.

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“And that is why we will continue to exhort and expect that people who have stepped up during this time be properly supported and paid for it,” he added.

The comment came after three Canadian grocery giants announced they were clawing back on a $2-per-hour wage increase for front-line employees.

The wage premiums at Loblaw Companies, Metro and Empire Co. (owner of Sobeys, Safeway and FreshCo) were put in place on March 8 in order to compensate employees who were working during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.

1:36Coronavirus outbreak: Treasury Board president says workers need support amid COVID-19, no matter who they work for

Coronavirus outbreak: Treasury Board president says workers need support amid COVID-19, no matter who they work for

The decision to scrap what Empire called “Hero Pay” has been met with controversy.

The House of Commons on Thursday announced it is calling the grocery store giants to testify on why they cancelled the bonus pay.

Loblaw executive chairman Galen Weston said at the time it was introduced that the program was “in recognition of [workers’] outstanding and ongoing efforts keeping our stores open and operating so effectively.”

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With the coronavirus a part of Canadians’ lives for more than three months, Loblaws stores and distribution centres “have settled into a good rhythm,” Sarah Davis, Loblaw president, wrote in an email to workers sent on June 11 and obtained by the Canadian Press.

“With this stability and economies reopening, we have decided the time is right to transition out of our temporary pay premium.”

Global News has reached out to Loblaw, Metro and Empire Co. for comment on the House of Commons committee’s vote.

© 2020 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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