Local grocery store staff call for hazard pay and paid sick leave amid COVID-19

Local grocery store staff call for hazard pay and paid sick leave amid COVID-19
Lifestyle Markets / Facebook
The health food store on Douglas Street in Victoria

Workers at Lifestyle Markets health food store are demanding hazard pay and paid sick days as compensation for working during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Retail Action Network says the market staff are exhausted by heavy workloads and are short-staffed. They are also stressed about the health hazards at work as four staff have presumptive cases of COVID-19.

Lifestyle Market employees are now demanding hazard pay of $3 per hour, retroactive to March 15, as well as six paid sick days.

Employees are going public with this announcement after management did not respond to the demands and a letter signed by 41 staff members.

“Grocery store staff deemed essential service workers put themselves at risk of COVID-19 exposure every day,” said the Retail Action Network in a press release. “Supermarket jobs are overwhelmingly low-wage and often don’t come with decent benefits packages.”

The market workers are hoping the company follows suit of other grocery stores, including Save On Foods, Whole Foods, and Loblaws, that have all introduced hazard pay for their workers.

On February 11, Lifestyle Market staff voted to unionize to give employees the chance to better be heard by management and to improve working conditions.

“They have only recently started bargaining to form a first contract, and the employer has not agreed to introduce improvements that the union has endorsed,” explained the press release.

A Lifestyle employee says it is encouraging to see more people recognizing the challenges faced by grocery store workers.

“Before COVID-19 people would refer to our jobs as ‘unskilled labour.’ But really, being in contact with people all the time is hard work, it takes a certain skill set, and now it’s even hazardous to our health.”

The workers are calling on Lifestyle customers and the community to support them by phoning the store in support of their demands or adding your name to their demand letter.

To sign the letter or for more information, visit the Lifestyle Market page on the Retail Action Network website.

Rebecca LawrenceRebecca Lawrence

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