Our communities are getting through this crisis, and will thrive on the other side, because of the efforts of front-line workers. These are the workers in our long-term care facilities caring for the elderly; in group homes caring for people with disabilities and providing a range of supports for the most vulnerable; in our towns and cities, providing vital services our communities need; and in our grocery stores, risking their health to keep Ontarians fed.

But despite their significant contributions, both during and before this pandemic, front-line workers are among the lowest paid, least protected, and most precarious workers. They’re disproportionately racialized, women, and newcomers. While they’re called “heroes” – and they are – they’re treated like a disposable workforce.

Recently, Loblaws, Metro, and Walmart scrapped the $2 pay bump for workers during the pandemic, claiming that employees have adapted to the new normal and that stores weren’t as busy as they were earlier in the crisis.

Let’s remember that grocery store workers were underpaid before this crisis – and were still underpaid despite the wage boost. Many of them are at, or just barely above, the minimum wage – a wage that’s well below the living wage anywhere in this province. Their salaries simply do not match the value they bring to our communities. And now, when we’re still in the midst of a pandemic, when they are still not provided with adequate PPE, and when their employers are earning more than ever, they have to endure a wage loss.

CUPE Ontario stands with these workers in their call to make this wage boost permanent. We oppose the claim that workers have adapted to the new normal and that these stores aren’t as busy as they used to be. The reality is that every day they’re risking their safety and that of their families. With the province in Stage 2 of reopening, Ontarians are spending less time practicing social isolation – and this puts workers on our front-lines at greater risk than ever.

Instead of inadequate protections, grocery store workers deserve safety. Instead of a loss in wages while corporations experience skyrocketing profits and precarious work, grocery store workers deserve a permanent wage boost and full-time work.

CUPE Ontario’s 280,000 public sector members are with grocery store workers because it’s the right thing to do – and because we share a common struggle.

The “pandemic pay” for almost 400,000 front-line public sector workers in Ontario is scheduled to end on August 16, well before this crisis will end and we have been calling to make this front-line pay permanent and to have it extend to all front-line workers, both in the public and the private sector.

All front-line workers deserve salaries that reflect the significant value they provide our communities.

It’s time to put pressure on this government and on employers to treat front-line workers – the people they rightly call “heroes” – with respect. Now’s the time for solidarity.

Sign this petition calling for a permanent pandemic pay for grocery store workers: https://ufcw175.com/2020/06/11/the-new-normal-keep-pandemic-pay-permanent/

Fred Hahn, President

Candace Rennick, Secretary-Treasurer

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