UFCW calling on retail employers to increase safety protocols and pay bonuses during Omicron wave.


The United Food and Commercial Workers International Union is calling on retail employers to increase safety protocols and pay bonuses to frontline workers as the Omicron variant surges across British Columbia.

Recently, the union says they’ve heard complaints from their members on an increase in unmasked shoppers and a lack of physical distancing, and their staff are the ones being affected.

“That’s a direct risk to their health and safety, with Omicron being as contagious as it is and the variant being as rampant as it is, they want to ensure their safety is being protected,” says Kim Novak, president of UFCW 1518.

With increasing case numbers putting even more pressure on retail workers, they are struggling to keep up with customer demand.

READ MORE: Omicron wave has likely peaked in B.C., but hospitalizations still on the rise: Henry

The union is hoping members will re-introduce safety protocols to mitigate the risk of COVID-19, these include:

  • Enforcing public health orders around mandatory masks in indoor spaces and using markers and enforcement of physical distancing
  • Actively counting the number of customers in stores and limiting to 50 per cent normal capacity
  • Reinstating enhanced cleaning measures in stores
  • Providing all employees appropriate PPE including three-layer surgical masks
  • Paying bonuses to employees working during the Omicron wave of the pandemic.

At the start of the pandemic, many grocery chains introduced “pandemic pay” but stopped after the first wave and when the minimum wage went up in B.C. The union would like to see the pandemic pay re-implemented.

“Workers are exhausted, they continue to show up to work every day they’re not sick and workers want to be recognized for that and the best way for employers to do it, especially for those who continue to make great profit during this time is to pay that bonus pay and compensate employees for what they’re doing,” says Novak.

So far, the union has received positive feedback when it comes to re-introducing safety protocols in store, but are still waiting to hear whether or not they will be compensating employees with cash.

CHEK News reached out to several Island grocery chains, none would comment. Several stated they don’t see old protocols coming back but continue to follow provincial health orders.

Hannah LepineHannah Lepine

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