- As the COVID-19 pandemic spreads, grocers are extending pay bumps and increasing benefits for employees. In Texas, H-E-B has extended its $2 per hour appreciation pay for hourly store associates, manufacturing, warehouse and transportation employees through May 10, according to a company tweet.
- SpartanNash has also announced a bonus pay program that will pay each frontline associate an additional $2 per hour for all hours worked between April 5 and April 25. The bonus pay will be on top of weekly $25 appreciation bonuses for frontline associates, which are being offered between March 1 and April 25.
- Natural Grocers will make $1 per hour of its $2 bonus pay permanent, with the other extra $1 being paid through May 3. The company has also awarded discretionary bonuses and plans to pay all medical fees associated with COVID-19 for employees who have health insurance through the retailer.
Grocery store employees have been hailed as nothing short of heroic amid the coronavirus. For showing up and continuing to do their jobs, they are being recognized by the public and by their employers for their continued efforts.
But as the pandemic continues into another month, workers in stores and distribution centers are contracting the virus and expressing concern over their exposure. In response, some retailers are digging deeper to keep employees motivated and show their appreciation.
H-E-B, which has drawn plaudits for its proactive response to the coronavirus outbreak, had previously set its $2 hourly raise to expire on April 12, but decided to extend the period for another month. "Thank you to our Partners who are working around the clock to keep shelves stocked and customers safe in Texas," the company tweeted recently. SpartanNash, meanwhile, clearly felt it needed to increase its compensation as competitors rolled out hourly wage increases in addition to bonuses. The grocer is also offering employees a 20% discount at stores.
Will grocers make some or all of these increases permanent, as Natural Grocers has done? Retailers will be reluctant to have added labor costs once the pandemic dies down, but the move could stem turnover rates in the months ahead.
In addition to pay and benefits increases, grocers are providing protective gear to employees or allowing them to wear it if they have it. Thousands of stores have also installed plexiglass barriers at cash registers, marked out customer spacing in high-traffic areas, limited store traffic and are implementing one-way aisles.
But while some grocers have responded proactively, other companies are contending with rising dissatisfaction. In Philadelphia, for example, employees of Mom’s Organic Market market are currently protesting working conditions and compensation. Trader Joe's has also had to contend with a renewed unionization push among its workers after workers at several locations contracted the virus, according to a New York Times report.
Last week, Instacart shoppers went on strike to demand more protective gear and better pay, and will now have access to safety kits with masks, thermometers and hand sanitizer. Workers at Amazon and Whole Foods are still awaiting what they consider acceptable hazard pay and sick pay, and many walked out on the job last week.