'The fact is, we always work hard...Yet our wages barely move. Our benefits hardly improve. Our jobs grow more precarious'
Workers’ union Unifor is calling on the Ontario government to make the pandemic pay a permanent benefit for grocery workers and to give these workers a fair salary for the work they do.
“Think about who we are talking about. It's your neighbors who often work there, your friends, children of those you know, these are who we are talking about today. Those workers got up each and every day, they came into work, despite the fear and despite the risk of contracting COVID-19, to keep our food supply system moving,” said Naureen Rizvi, Unifor Ontario director, on Friday during the union’s virtual rally in support of grocery workers who have seen their pay cut this past week.
The union noted that Loblaw was the first to announce it would end the $2 premium paid to workers in its grocery stores, and other major retailers, including Metro and Sobeys, soon followed.
News of the pay cuts last week was quickly followed by word that the Ontario government was considering taking away all but three statutory holidays for retail workers, leaving only Christmas, Good Friday and Canada Day. The proposal was quickly dropped in the face of negative reaction from the public on social media, according to Unifor.
“It has become clear, based on governments, based on the employers, that the respect that our members are shown by consumers is certainly not shown by the corporations,” Jerry Dias, Unifor national president. “We are fighting to make sure the pandemic pay stays.”
“These are workers just doing their jobs, doing their duty. They remind us what it is to be selfless. And to act for the greater good,” said Linda MacNeil, Unifor Atlantic regional director.
On Thursday, Liberal MP Nathaniel Erskine-Smith brought forward a motion to question the executives about the pay cut. It was passed unanimously.
Unifor said it is currently in negotiations with Loblaw-owned Dominion Stores in Newfoundland and Labrador, attempting to reverse a 2019 company decision to eliminate one in five full-time supermarket jobs.
“The fact is, we always work hard. Harder and harder every year, to keep this company profitable. Yet our wages barely move. Our benefits hardly improve. Our jobs grow more precarious,” said Carolyn Wrice, Unifor Local 597 President in Newfoundland and Labrador.
Ontario recently announced it is investing more than $500 million over five years to transform correctional facilities across the province to help ensure the safety and security of frontline staff.
In May, the Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU) condemned the Liquor Control Board of Ontario’s (LCBO’s) decision to expand in-store employees’ hours for the May long weekend while not providing hazard pay amid the COVID-19 pandemic.