More than 5,000 people sent letters of protest to Save-On-Foods CEO Darrell Jones and the Pattison Group last week after the company abruptly announced they would be ending the Pandemic Premium for their workers as of May 30.
Members at Save-on-Foods were shocked when they were told that their Pandemic Premium pay would be ending the subsequent week and, instead, they would be able to choose between a 10% discount on groceries or 30x loyalty points on purchases.
Many workers felt disappointed and insulted by the sudden change in compensation. One member stated that “I know a few hundred dollars doesn’t seem like a lot to salaried decision-makers, but to me, that few hundred dollars a month represents rent, encouragement, and hope that I can save up money for a future.”
A letter-writing campaign by UFCW 1518 led to an outpouring of support from the public. The campaign and the move by Save-On-Foods was a major story covered by multiple news outlets including CTV and the CBC.
Save-On-Foods customers shared letters that they wrote to the company asking them to reinstate the Pandemic Premium. Several of these customers shared that they were outraged that the 10% discount or offer of additional loyalty points benefited Save-On-Foods rather than the workers by returning the incentive to the company. As one put it, “That’s not how ‘rewards’ work. That’s not how genuine recognition works. That’s not how kindness and care work.”
In response to media inquiries, Save-On-Foods stated that “the value of this new team member discount program far exceeds the value of the short-term hourly bonus.” However, according to members polled at Save-On-Foods, the average single worker spends $50-$80 per week on groceries. Under the discount program, they would save $5-8 per week, far less than the up to $80 per week they could make with the Pandemic Premium.
UFCW 1518 received a reply from Save-On-Foods CEO Darrell Jones to a letter sent asking him to reinstate the Pandemic Premium. Mr. Jones refused to reinstate the pay, justifying his decision by stating that “the spread of COVID-19 has fortunately been minimized in our communities.” However, despite the relaxation of COVID-19 restrictions, grocery workers are still expected to perform enhanced sanitation procedures, enforce physical distancing in stores, and frequently restock essential items. They are also at increased risk of exposure to COVID-19 as they interact with high numbers of members of the public every day.
“The COVID-19 pandemic is not over and unfortunately it won’t be over for quite some time,” said UFCW 1518 President Kim Novak. “It’s too soon to end the Pandemic Premium.”
You can send a letter to Save-On-Foods CEO Darrell Jones and Jim Pattison to ask that they reinstate the Pandemic Premium for their workers.