Sobeys brings back hero pay for grocery workers in lockdown areas


Grocery chain Sobeys has reinstated a program that will see its workers in areas locked down because of COVID-19 get a pay bump.

Empire Co., which owns Sobey’s, has brought back so-called “hero pay” for its hourly workers in Winnipeg, Toronto and Peel region, which is just west of Toronto. All three regions are currently on some sort of lockdown because of rising COVID-19 cases, and all but essential retail has been brought to a halt.

Sobeys workers who get paid by the hour in those regions will get between $10 and $100 extra per week, depending on how many hours they work per week. Although the figure may change as the situation improves or worsens, the company estimates that the initiative will cost it about $5 million.

The chain, like others, had a similar program for its workers in the early days of the pandemic as grocery stores were inundated by shoppers panic buying, the initial bonus program was halted in June as supply chains and stores got back to some semblance of normal.

“Our teammates continue to work tirelessly to keep our stores safe and our communities fed,” CEO Michael Medline said in a statement to CBC News.

“Launching the Lockdown Bonus, in the face of new government mandated lockdowns, was simply the right thing to do. I said that if we ever faced the same level of lockdowns in a region or province like we saw in the early spring, we would bring a recognition program back for our teammates.

“Since the COVID-19 pandemic began, our teammates’ efforts to keep stores open, shelves stocked and Canadian families fed have been nothing short of heroic.”

In its most recent earnings release, rival grocery chain Loblaws stated it has no plans to bring back a similar pay bump despite raising its dividend to shareholders by two cents per share because of strong sales growth.

“The company remains steadfast in its commitment to put customers and colleagues first, as we sustained investments and safety measures at store level, while resisting pressure to raise prices at a time when Canadians need value more than ever,” CEO Galen Weston said at the time.

Read more at CBC.ca