Grocery workers should be properly paid during pandemic, Trudeau says

Grocery workers should be properly paid during pandemic, Trudeau says

Grocery workers should be properly paid during pandemic, Trudeau says

CHELSEA, Que. — Grocery store employees who continued to work during the COVID-19 pandemic are “heroes” and should be properly compensated, said Prime Minister Justin Trudeau Friday.

Trudeau’s remarks came about a week after Canada’s three major grocers scrapped so-called pandemic wage premiums for their staff.

“The people who step up in the midst of the most serious times to ensure that Canadians can still put food on the table, that they can get deliveries they need, that shelves are stocked, that Canadian continue to be safe and fed are heroes of this pandemic every bit as much as our front-line health workers and emergency responders,” he said at a news conference in Chelsea, Que., after being asked for his reaction to the pay clawback.

Loblaw Companies Ltd., Metro Inc. and Empire Co. announced last week they would stop paying an hourly premium to store workers starting June 13.

Loblaw and Metro both had been paying workers an extra $2 an hour since March 8, while Empire offered a weekly bonus to all employees and a $2 hourly wage bump to those working more than 20 hours a week.

The companies provided various explanations for the decision, which was slammed by two unions that represent the workers.

Loblaw stores settled into a more stable situation, a spokesperson said at the time, adding the company has invested more than $280 million into safety measures and “is no longer benefiting financially from COVID-19.”

Metro and Empire noted a similar stability.

Trudeau said that the people who have stepped up to help Canadians, often while risking their health or safety, should continue to be supported and respected.

“That’s why we will continue to exhort and expect that people who’ve stepped up during this time be properly supported and paid for it,” he said.

Trudeau’s comments come on the heels of the House of Commons Industry Committee voting unanimously on Thursday to summon representatives of Loblaw, Metro and Empire to explain how they came to the decision, within 24 hours of each other, to cut wage premiums for front-line staff.

Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland was also asked about the decision at an Ottawa news conference Friday and whether it would impact if the companies receive future funding or access to programs.

“I hope that one of the things that this pandemic has taught us is that people who do some of the work which is most essential for our actual, our literal survival are among the lowest paid people in our country,” she said.

“I’m sure that was frightening for many of them,” she said, adding she has told workers at her local grocery stores just how grateful she is for their service.

“I do think that it behoves all of us, including employers, not to forget that lesson.”

Freeland added that the House has heard concerns that government support to Canadians may have provided a disincentive to work.

“I think the fact that grocery stores now feel able to bring the wages back down suggests that there isn’t a powerful disincentive to work out there,” she said.

A Metro spokesperson declined to comment, while Loblaw and Empire did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Trudeau and Freeland’s statements.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 19, 2020.

Companies in this story: (TSX:L, TSX:MRU, TSX:EMP.A)

The Canadian Press

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Alberta has 3,651 active cases of COVID-19.  (File photo)
750 new COVID-19 cases identified in Alberta Sunday

Central zone currently has 1,182 active cases of the virus

The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine deliveres to Canada are being delayed because of complications at their European distribution facility. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Delays of Pfizer vaccine delivery to impact Alberta’s vaccination plans

Alberta has administered 74,000 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine so far

blessing
Bentley Blessing Pantry continues to faithfully serve the community

‘We just wanted to make everyone aware that we are still here to serve you throughout this coming year.’

A scene from “Canada and the Gulf War: In their own words,” a video by The Memory Project, a program of Historica Canada, is shown in this undated illustration. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO - Historica Canada
New video marks Canada’s contributions to first Gulf War on 30th anniversary

Veterans Affairs Canada says around 4,500 Canadian military personnel served during the war

Eleven more Albertans die from COVID-19

There were 739 people in hospital, 120 in ICU on Monday

World Juniors’ referee Mike Langin makes a called during the Canada vs. Slovakia at the 2021 World Junior Championship at Rogers Place in Edmonton, Dec. 27, 2020. (Photo by Matthew Murnaghan/Hockey Canada)
Former Sylvan Lake man lives his dream at World Junior Championships

Mike Langin was one the 25 Canadian officials who worked during the tournament

Indigenous people gather for a ceremony for Cindy Gladue held at the courthouse in Edmonton, Alta, on Wednesday, January 13, 2021. Bradley Barton, a 52-year-old long-haul truck driver from Ontario on trial for manslaughter, is accused of killing Gladue. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
People stand in support of mother as new trial gets underway in death of Cindy Gladue

Bradley Barton, a long-haul truck driver from Ontario, will now be tried for manslaughter in the 2011 death

(Photo submitted)
RCMP say ice climber seriously injured after reportedly falling 12 metres near Abraham Lake

Police say man’s injuries were serious but not life-threatening

U.S. military units march in front of the Capitol, Monday, Jan. 18, 2021 in Washington, as they rehearse for President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration ceremony, which will be held at the Capitol on Wednesday. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
Biden aims for unifying speech at daunting moment for U.S.

President Donald Trump won’t be there to hear it

Facebook/ The Open Door 24/7 Integrated Response Hub- Wetaskiwin.
Wetaskiwin residents show support for 24/7 Integrated Response Hub

Wetaskiwin residents and City Council members showed support for Hub with positive signs.

Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole holds a press conference on Parliament Hill, in Ottawa on December 10, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
No place for ‘far right’ in Conservative Party, Erin O’Toole says

O’Toole condemned the Capitol attack as ‘horrifying’ and sought to distance himself and the Tories from Trumpism

A passer by walks in High Park, in Toronto, Thursday, Jan. 14, 2021. This workweek will kick off with what’s fabled to be the most depressing day of the year, during one of the darkest eras in recent history. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young
‘Blue Monday’ getting you down? Exercise may be the cure, say experts

Many jurisdictions are tightening restrictions to curb soaring COVID-19 case counts

Most Read