The trend toward providing higher salaries and bonuses for grocery workers on the front lines of the coronavirus pandemic continued over the weekend behind key agreements at union-represented chains under Albertsons Cos., Kroger and Ahold Delhaize USA.
United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) local unions also lauded separate agreements covering expanded coronavirus-related benefits for union-backed workers at Schnucks, Dierbergs and Straub's stores in Missouri, and a $2-per-hour salary increase at Stater Bros. Markets in Southern California. The UFCW represents 1.3 million workers at U.S. grocery chains.
Albertsons said all hourly workers would receive a temporary $2-per-hour raise; Kroger announced bonuses of $300 for full-time hourly workers and $150 for part-time employees; and Ahold Delhaize’s Stop & Shop chain said workers agreed to a 10% pay increase.
Albertsons 'Appreciation Pay'
Albertsons, the Boise, Idaho-based parent of 2,260 U.S. stores including the Albertsons, Safeway, Jewel-Osco and Acme chains, said late Friday its “Appreciation Pay” program covers about 230,000 nonunion and union front-line associates, including e-commerce pickers and drivers, store associates, distribution center associates and manufacturing plant associates. The $2-per-hour benefit, above and beyond regular hourly pay and overtime, went into effect March 15 and will last until at least the end of the following pay period on March 28. The company said it would evaluate the situation on an ongoing basis and make changes as necessary.
Albertsons said the temporary increase was requested by the company’s division presidents and supported by its board of directors and the company’s owners, including Cerberus Capital Management.
“These times are unprecedented in the grocery industry,” Vivek Sankaran, Albertsons CEO, said in a statement. “This simple ‘thank you’ doesn’t seem like quite enough, and we hope our sincere appreciation with this program is a start.”
“What Safeway did today shows real leadership,” UFCW International President Marc Perrone said in a statement. “They worked with our union family and they recognized the incredible hard work and sacrifices that our members and all grocery workers are making every single day across this nation. This pay increase will not only help protect these workers and support their families, it will also ensure they are able to continue to perform an absolutely vital role in our communities.
“We hope that this sends a message to every supermarket, grocery store and food retail employer—union and nonunion—across this country that it is time for every company to recognize the sacrifice America’s food workers are making—sacrifices that Safeway has rightfully recognized and which other companies must also recognize,” Perrone continued. “At a time of such national crisis, where food is so vital, it is critical that every employer do more to protect our food supply and grocery stores by protecting the hardworking men and women who work there and keep them open.”
Albertsons separately disclosed to the Securities and Exchange Commission last week that it was drawing $2 billion from an asset-backed revolving credit facility “as a precautionary measure in order to increase its cash position and preserve financial flexibility in light of current uncertainty in the global markets resulting from the COVID-19 outbreak.”
The proceeds from the borrowing are currently being held on the company's balance sheet and may in the future be used for working capital, general corporate or other purposes permitted by the borrowing agreement.
Kroger Announces Bonus, Leave Policy Adjustment
The Kroger Co., which had weathered some criticism over its leave and pay policies in recent days, on March 21 announced that it will provide a one-time bonus to every hourly front-line grocery, supply chain, manufacturing and customer service associate, amounting to $300 for every full-time associate and $150 for every part-time associate.
“Grocery workers are on the front lines, ensuring Americans have access to the food and products they need during this unprecedented pandemic,” said Rodney McMullen, Kroger’s chairman and CEO. “Our associates are working around the clock to keep our stores open for our customers. I am incredibly grateful for all they are doing. The true heroes in this story are our associates, and we want to provide them with additional resources and support to help them continue their remarkable effort.”
Kroger said special bonuses will be paid to front-line associates who were hired on or before March 1. It covers the payroll period March 8-28 and will be payable on April 3.
The company also expanded its emergency leave guidelines to include paid time off for self-isolation and symptoms as verified by an accredited healthcare professional. This expands the new guidelines, announced on March 14, which allows paid time off for associates diagnosed with or placed under quarantine due to the coronavirus. In each scenario, all associates will be eligible to receive their standard pay for up to 14 days.
“We believe that by expanding our emergency leave guidelines, more of our associates can feel certain knowing that if their health is affected by or if they experience symptoms of COVID-19, they will be supported while they stay at home and recover,” said Tim Massa, SVP and chief people officer for Kroger. “We are appreciative of all of our managers who have been working individually with associates in recognition that every associate’s situation is personal. We also want to make it easier for associates to follow our guidance to stay home if they feel sick and to do our part to flatten the curve.”
10% Raise at Stop & Shop
The UFCW also applauded Stop & Shop this week for giving all union Stop & Shop and Peapod employees represented by the UFCW a 10% increase in pay during the coronavirus outbreak. Workers will also receive two additional weeks of paid leave if they become sick, the union said.
“This essential pay and benefit increase will not only protect these hardworking men and women, it will help protect the food supply throughout our communities,” Perrone said.
A spokesperson was not immediately available to comment on changes at other Ahold Delhaize USA banners.
Additional companies announcing bonuses for workers in recent days include Stater Bros., Weis Markets and Price Chopper/Market 32. Unverified online accounts indicate Aldi has internally communicated a $2-per-hour pay increase. Sprouts Farmers Market this weekend said all workers at the company would receive maximum quarterly bonuses ahead of their normal distribution, regardless of company performance.
Giant Eagle Tabs $10 Million for Bonuses
Pittsburgh-based Giant Eagle also joined the ranks of retailers stepping up to reward bonus pay to employees during the coronavirus outbreak with a $10 million purse.
The bonus pay will be offered to employees in all of its multiformat banners, including Giant Eagle, Market District, Giant Eagle Pharmacy and GetGo, as well as those working in warehouses and driver and delivery teams. The bonuses take effect immediately and have been made retroactive to March 15; current and new employees will also be eligible for the bonuses.
“As a company, we must continue to find ways to support our incredibly dedicated team members,” said Laura Shapira Karet, president and CEO of Giant Eagle. “Across all our communities every day, they are working tirelessly to keep families safe, healthy and fed. We cannot thank them enough. They are our heroes.”
Giant Eagle presently has set May 2 as the end date for the bonus pay but said it plans to reevaluate the situation in the coming weeks.
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