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OPINION: On ‘Grocery Heroes Day,’ workers deserve more than just words

An opinion piece by Eric Bell of the Saskatchewan Federation of Labour
grocery worker at checkout
Grocery workers at checkout

Grocery Heroes Day [that was recently recognized on July 19] is a day invented by the multi-billion dollar Canadian grocery industry and supported by provincial governments, including the government of Saskatchewan, to recognize grocery workers in Canada without actually doing anything to improve their working conditions or wages.

“Grocery workers have been on the front lines of Canada’s COVID-19 pandemic for the last year and a half,” said Saskatchewan Federation of Labour (SFL) President Lori Johb. “Through it all, these workers have put their health and safety at risk- dealing with public health restrictions, workplace outbreaks, and unruly customers. Many grocery workers have contracted COVID-19 and have been hospitalized, and some have even died as a result of their work and their employer’s failure to keep them safe. Grocery workers here in Saskatchewan and across the country deserve so much more than just words for the hard work they do each and every day.”

At the start of the pandemic, grocery workers were applauded by both the provincial government and the grocery industry for their vital work. Some corporations gave their employees wages and additional benefits on a temporary basis in recognition of the additional strain the pandemic had on workers. Now those benefits have been taken away, despite major grocery retailers raking in record profits.

“Canada’s grocery retailers have made billions during the course of the pandemic, but instead of passing those profits to the workers through increased wages and benefits, they are using them to benefit their wealthy shareholders and boost executive pay,” Johb said. “If these retailers truly cared about their employees, they would use Grocery Heroes Day to meaningfully improve working conditions for their employees.”

Johb also called out Premier Scott Moe and the Sask. Party government for supporting Grocery Heroes Day while also offering next to nothing for grocery workers in the province

“From having the lowest minimum wage in the country and refusing to implement paid sick leave, to leaving federal funds meant for wage top ups for essential workers unspent, the Sask. Party has done nothing for grocery workers,” Johb said. “Instead of offering empty words, the government and grocery industry should both be putting workers first and taking meaningful steps to make their lives better.”

By Eric Bell
Saskatchewan Federation of Labour 

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the position of this publication.  

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