BOISE — Albertsons Cos. has eliminated a $2 an hour pay raise for employees placed at potential risk for working through the coronavirus pandemic.
But the Boise-based company, the nation’s second-largest grocery chain, says it will award in-store workers a separate “Appreciation Pay” bonus payment equal to $4 per hour for hours worked from March 15 through last Saturday, June 13, when the temporary pay raise ended.
Kim Cordova, president of UFCW Local 7 in Denver, which represents workers at Albertsons and Safeway, condemned the end of the $2-an-hour premium.
“Grocery companies, including Safeway/Albertsons, have seen record profits during this pandemic as customers who stay at home buy more groceries,” Cordova said in a statement to KDVR-TV in Denver, which first reported the end of the hourly bonus. “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.”
Jack Caldwell, president of Boise-based Local 368A of the United Food and Commercial Workers Union, did not immediately return a call for comment. The union represents Albertsons workers in Southern Idaho, Eastern Oregon and Western Wyoming.
Albertsons said workers will be credited for a minimum of 15 hours per week even if they worked less, and will receive at least $90 a week.
“We are deeply grateful for how our front-line associates served their neighbors in an extreme time of need,” Albertsons spokesperson Chris Wilcox said by email. “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.”
Albertsons, Fred Meyer and many other grocery chains instituted temporary pay increases in March as the pandemic swept the nation. Food stores were declared essential services that could remain open while states including Idaho ordered nonessential retailers to close their doors.
Fred Meyer, owned by Kroger, the nation’s largest grocery chain, provided its workers with an extra $2 an hour through May 17. At the onset of the pandemic, Fred Meyer gave full-time workers $300 and part-time workers $150 in bonus pay. More recently, it offered an additional one-time bonus of $400 for full-time workers and $200 for part-time workers.
Walmart paid $300 to full-time workers and $150 to part-time workers in April. It plans to pay out an equal amount to workers on June 25.
Both Albertsons and Fred Meyer extended their temporary pay increases past their original sunset dates.
Sales boomed for the two chains as shoppers stocked up on goods because of the pandemic.
Albertsons, which employs 270,000 workers under several different store banners across the country, said last week that same-store sales increased 30% in the first 12 weeks of its fiscal year that began March 1. That was a slight decrease from the 34% increase Albertsons reported during the first eight weeks of the fiscal year.
Kroger is scheduled to report its earnings on Thursday. Analysts expect a first-quarter increase of 44%, compared with the first quarter of 2019.
Walmart has reported pandemic same-store sales increases of 10% and online increases of 74%.
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