Some grocery stores bring back ‘hero pay’ wage bumps as provinces grapple with COVID-19

Grocery chains Longo’s and Empire Co., which owns Sobeys, Foodland and FreshCo, say they will be bringing back a temporary wage bump for its front-line workers as provinces begin to grapple with increased COVID-19 restrictions and daily case counts.

Ontario-based Longo’s first made the announcement Thursday of a $2 per hour increase for permanent employees, which will be in effect until the end of the province’s stay-at-home order.

Empire Co. confirmed to Global News its decision to temporarily re-introduce its “Lockdown Bonus” program for its frontline workers in Ontario and certain areas in Quebec.

Read more: Loblaws, Metro to end COVID-19 wage top-up for employees

“Once again, families in Ontario and certain regions in Quebec will now mainly rely on grocers and pharmacies for their food, essentials and medication needs,” read a statement sent Friday.

“We are proud to continue serving our communities in these areas during this difficult time.”

The move to tack on such “hero pay” to frontline and essential workers comes on the heels of a surge in daily case counts in both of those provinces, as well as new stay-at-home orders and curfews.

Large grocery chains across Canada, including Loblaw Companies, Metro and Empire Co., previously gave their staff temporary wage bumps at the beginning of the pandemic.

The three companies faced criticism after pulling out from the program, however, with a House of Commons committee summoning the grocery giants to testify on why they cancelled the bonus pay.

Global News did not immediately hear back from a request for comment from Longo’s, as well as from Loblaw Companies and Metro.

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