Regional grocery chain Albertsons Companies ended its "Appreciation Pay" Saturday, which provided a $2 hourly bonus to in-store employees.
The United Food and Commercial Workers International Union – one of the world’s largest labor unions for foodservice employees – is not pleased with the decision, FOX 31 Denver KDVR reports. But, FOX Business has learned the grocery chain is planning a "reward payment" for employees who are working during a global pandemic.
"We are deeply grateful for how our front-line associates served their neighbors in an extreme time of need. 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," an Albertsons spokesperson wrote to FOX Business via email. "As much of the country lifts restrictions and businesses re-open 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."
"The reward will be equal to $4 per hour for their average hours worked per week between March 15 and June 13," the spokesperson continued. "For this reward, all eligible associates will be credited with a minimum average of 15 hours worked per week."
The UFCW did not immediately respond to FOX Business's request for comment. The president of Colorado and Wyoming-based UFCW Local 7 chapter did speak with FOX 31 Denver.
"For almost four months, grocery workers have put their lives and their family’s lives at risk to protect and serve the communities in a global pandemic," said UFCW Local President Kim Cordova. "They do so because they care about their jobs and their livelihoods."
She added that grocery companies such as Albertsons, which own 21 regional supermarkets and operates in 34 states, "have seen record profits during this pandemic as customers who stay at home buy more groceries."
"Taking away these Essential Heroes' hourly bonus of $2 an hour shows a complete disregard for the dangers these workers face every day just to do their jobs."
The larger labor union estimated that at least 3,257 grocery store workers had been infected with the novel coronavirus in late May. Moreover, the UFCW had estimated that 68 workers had died from their infections.
UFCW's current concern for grocery workers comes at a time when reports are showing signs of a potential second wave of coronavirus outbreaks in states that have been easing restrictions for reopening.
Previously, Albertsons and the UFCW had teamed up to try and get grocery workers classified as "first responders," so these critical employees could get priority access to testing, personal protective equipment and other benefits.
Despite this joint effort, the UFCW has been critical of Albertsons paused Appreciation Pay as it has done with other grocery store chains that have ended coronavirus hazard pay initiatives, including Kroger, Walmart and Amazon, which were criticized in a press release issued on May 22.
Albertsons' Appreciation Pay went into effect on March 15 for around 230,000 associates and the situation would be evaluated "on an ongoing basis," the company shared in a press release at the time.