Bring back hazard pay for supermarket workers facing extra risks from Omicron: NDP MP

Bring back hazard pay for supermarket workers facing extra risks from Omicron: NDP MP

OTTAWA — Grocery stores are being urged to reinstate hazard pay for workers facing extra health and safety risks from the highly contagious Omicron variant.

The federal NDP’s critic for economic development has written to the heads of Canada’s biggest supermarkets asking them to restore “pandemic pay,” which was brought in after COVID-19 first struck and then cancelled.

Brian Masse, MP for Windsor West, says grocery store workers, including those at the checkout, are doing risky work during the Omicron surge and again deserve “hazard pay” for helping to keep stores open and shelves stocked.

The MP says he wants to hold Sobeys CEO Michael Medline to his promise before a Commons committee in July 2020 that he would reintroduce a wage premium if provinces reinstate restrictions.

Several grocery store chains including Sobeys did provide workers with a temporary wage bump during the third wave of COVID-19 last spring.

Provinces have reintroduced restrictions to tackle the Omicron variant, with Ontario returning schools to online learning and Quebec beginning Sunday closures of non-essential stores. British Columbia and Manitoba have also tightened controls.

Jacquelin Weatherbee, vice-president of communications at Sobeys, said the supermarket chain will reinstate its lockdown bonus if there are “government-mandated lockdowns that close all non-essential retail.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 5, 2022.

The Canadian Press