Trudeau calls for better pay for 'heroes' of the pandemic

Major grocery chains are ending frontliners' pay premium

Trudeau calls for better pay for 'heroes' of the pandemic

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is calling for essential workers to be “properly supported and paid” for having risked their lives at the height of the COVID-19 crisis. His remarks come in response to the announcement of grocery chains in Canada, which are cutting back pay premium for frontliners.

“The people who step up in the midst of the most serious times to ensure Canadians can still put food on the table, that they get the deliveries they need, that shelves are stocked, that Canadians continue to be safe and fed, are heroes of this pandemic,” Trudeau said at a news conference.

“We need to make sure that people who’ve stepped up to help Canadians, often at question of their own health and safety, continue to be supported and respected,” he said.

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Retailers Loblaw, Empire and Metro last week ended their $2 hourly premium set in March. The companies expect consumers to ease back into their routine as additional restrictions are lifted.

“As the economy slowly reopens and Canadians begin to return to work, we believe it is the right time to end the temporary pay premium we introduced at the beginning of the pandemic,” Galen Weston, executive chairman of Loblaw, said in a statement.

The company also said it had extended the period for the pay bump repeatedly before scaling it back, and that it is confident that “colleagues are operating safely and effectively in a new normal”.

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Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland hopes Canadians remember that the people who undertake the most essential work “for our literal survival” are also among the lowest paid in the country.

“I think the coronavirus has taught us how much we depend on them,” Freeland said. “I do think that it behooves us all, including employers, not to forget that lesson.”

The House of Commons will hear from representatives of the retailers regarding their move to end the pay premium.

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