NEW WESTMINSTER, British Columbia, May 26, 2020 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — On Friday, UFCW 1518 learned that Save-On-Foods has decided to end its Pandemic Premium for employees effective Saturday, May 30.
The announcement was a shock and a disappointment to union members who have been working hard on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic.
On March 20, 2020, when the Pandemic Premium was first announced, UFCW 1518 commended Save-On-Foods for taking this important step to recognize their employees for their essential work. UFCW 1518 is concerned about the message being sent to Save-On-Foods employees as the province enters the next phase of the pandemic.
As British Columbia re-opens and businesses begin to navigate new regulations and business practices, there is tremendous uncertainty about the future and the safety of front line workers. Premier John Horgan has said that “we are far from out of the woods” on the COVID-19 pandemic. Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry has assured the public that a second wave of the virus is imminent.
“BC is only beginning to relax its pandemic response, and the crisis is far from over, especially for front line workers,” says UFCW 1518 President Kim Novak. “There remains a lot of uncertainty around what could happen in the coming months. Meanwhile, Save-On-Foods members continue to assume risks by showing up to work every day. Ongoing recognition for that commitment is the least these workers deserve. It is just too soon to end the Pandemic Premium.”
Last month, Save-On-Foods President Darrell Jones stated that the company’s “top priority is always the health and safety of team members […] They are the ones leaving their homes to help their neighbours get food on the table, and it’s so important that they’re recognized for their commitment to their communities.” UFCW 1518 was surprised when Save-On-Foods decided to suddenly rescind the Pandemic Premium given their statements about the sacrifices their workers are making.
On May 25, Finance Minister Carole James called for businesses like Save-On-Foods to pay their workers fairly while they are playing such a critical role, saying “I would encourage all businesses who’ve seen an increase in revenue to ensure that their workers are being properly compensated at this difficult time.”
Immediately following the discovery that the premium would be ending, UFCW 1518 asked Save-On-Foods to reinstate the Pandemic Premium. Today, the union started a letter-writing campaign, asking union members and members of the public to send a letter of support (ufcw1518.com/covid-19-save-on-foods) to Darrell Jones asking him to extend the Pandemic Premium.
“The work that Save-On-Foods members are doing today is no different than the work they will be doing a week from now,” added Novak. “These workers are protecting everyone’s health and safety by maintaining enhanced sanitation procedures, observing physical distancing, and keeping shelves stocked. It is only fair to extend the Pandemic Premium as we continue to fight COVID-19.”
UFCW Local 1518 represents more than 24,000 union members working in the community health, hospitality, retail, grocery, industrial, and professional sectors across British Columbia.