Albertsons Cos. said it would provide its hourly workers with a “reward bonus” as it sunsets the temporary $2-per-hour premium it had paid them since the coronavirus pandemic struck the U.S. in March.
The Boise, Idaho-based retailer said the reward bonus—equal to $4 per hour for average hours worked per week between March 15 and June 13—follows the expiration of its $2-per-hour Appreciation Pay on June 13.
“We are deeply grateful for how our front-line associates served their neighbors in an extreme time of need,” the company said in a statement to WGB. “Not only did they ensure everyone had access to essential goods, they enacted numerous proactive measures to protect the health and safety of everyone walking into the store. As much of the country lifts restrictions and businesses reopen their doors, we will thank associates with a reward payment following the final extension of the temporary $2-per-hour Appreciation Pay through June 13.”
Albertsons said all workers would be credited with a minimum average of 15 hour per week, or $90.
Albertsons employs approximately 270,000 workers. Around 185,000 are covered by collective bargaining agreements. Its identical-store sales were up by 30% through the first 12 weeks of its new fiscal year, March 1, the company said in a federal filing last week. Margins during that period totaled 30.4% of sales vs. 27.9% for the same period a year ago.
As its rival Kroger experienced when it moved to suspend its hourly premium, the move drew condemnation from the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) union, which warned the threat of the coronavirus had “not gone away” even as states and municipalities lift restrictions on businesses that came with mitigation efforts in March. Kroger, Cincinnati, suspended its premium hourly pay on May 17 and followed with a one-time bonus of $400 for full-time workers and $200 for part-time workers.
“For almost four months grocery workers put their lives and their families at risk to protect and serve communities in a global pandemic. They do so because they care about their jobs and their livelihoods. Grocery companies including Safeway/Albertsons have seen record profits during this pandemic as customers who stay at home buy more groceries. Taking away these essential heroes’ bonus of $2 a hour shows a complete disregard for the dangers these workers face every day just to do their jobs,” Kim Cordova, president of UFCW Local 7, a Wheat Ridge, Colo.-based union local representing 21,000 grocery workers in Colorado and Wyoming.
Albertsons and UFCW jointly supported federal declaration of grocery employees as “first responders” or “emergency personnel” during the pandemic to ensure that they are prioritized for testing and provided personal protection equipment.
The UFCW said more than 200 grocery workers represented by its local unions have died from the coronavirus.