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  • Writer's pictureMichael Laxer

Loblaw ends pandemic pay even as the "danger has not passed"

"Unifor is putting all retail employers on notice – the return to normal for these workers is not happening, because normal was not good enough."

Unifor is denouncing the announcement by Loblaw Companies Ltd. Wednesday that it will be ending the $2 an hour premium pandemic pay front line workers had been receiving on June 13.

"The pandemic is not over. The danger has not passed. These workers are no less at risk and are no less essential today than they were yesterday. There is no justification for ending pandemic pay now, or ever," Unifor National President Jerry Dias said in a press release today.

Back in March the premium pay was announced with much fanfare by the corporation.

Loblaw executive chairman Galen Weston praised the worker's "outstanding and ongoing efforts keeping our stores open" at the time and noted that "Our supermarkets and pharmacies are performing well. And the leaders in our business wanted to make sure that a significant portion of that benefit would go straight into the pockets of the incredible people on the front line."

It seems the billionaire heir to the retail empire feels differently now.

Loblaw president Sarah David referred to the dangers workers continue to face as "the new normal" while announcing the pay cut.

This year the company saw its first-quarter profits rise "to $240 million, compared to $198 million in the same quarter last year".

Dias noted "Retail workers have always been essential, and they have always deserved much better. The fact is, the pandemic did not make these workers essential and did not create the inequities in retail, it simply exposed them."

He continued:

Loblaw knows the risk is not over. It's just trying to boost profits on the backs of its most vulnerable workers, and that's just wrong.
Unifor is putting all retail employers on notice – the return to normal for these workers is not happening, because normal was not good enough.

Unifor has started a "Fair Pay Forever" campaign and petition which "calls on employers to raise the bar for all food, pharmacy and other essential retail workers by making pandemic wage premiums permanent."

Workers essential to the functioning of our country report living paycheque to paycheque, struggling to cover rent or food costs, and being unable to get ahead in order to reduce debt, start a family, or become a home-owner.
Hazard pay for workers during the pandemic is the minimum that employers can do during these unprecedented times. Employers must commit to permanently improving the living conditions of workers.
Unions and labour activists have been calling for a living wage and better work protections for Canadians for decades.

As Dias put it "We have a chance to fix this. We can't let this opportunity pass."

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