Executives of Loblaws, Metro and Empire Company are testifying at the House of Commons’ industry committee today after all three companies cancelled a $2-an-hour pay bump they put in place in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Loblaws brands include Shoppers Drug Mart, Superstore and No Frills. Metro owns Food Basics, Jean Coutu, Metro and other brands, while Empire owns Sobeys and FreshCo.
Eric La Flèche, president and chief executive officer of Metro Inc., Sarah Davis, president of Loblaws Comapnies Ltd., and Michael Medline, president and CEO of Empire Company Ltd. are all expected to testify.
The committee meeting begins at 2 p.m.
The pay bump was put in place in March as panic buying in the early stages of the lockdowns left many stores struggling to keep items on the shelves.
All three corporations, along with Walmart, cancelled the pay bump in early June.
A few days later, the committee unanimously voted to invite the executives “to explain their decisions to cancel, on the same day, the modest increase in wages for front-line grocery store workers during the pandemic.”
The union Unifor represents 20,000 retail workers across Canada, including some at Loblaws and Metro. It said it was disappointed with the move.
“The fact is, the pandemic did not make these workers essential and did not create the inequities in retail. It simply exposed them,” Unifor president Jerry Dias said.
Labour groups have long argued that retail workers don’t get paid enough to begin with, and hoped to make the recent pay increases permanent.
“We have a chance to fix this. We can’t let this opportunity pass,” Dias said.
In a media statement, the United Food and Commercial Workers union it is “disappointed” with employers that chose to stop the extra pay while the pandemic is still active, and while some provinces still have various precautionary measures in place.
“UFCW Canada acknowledges that premium pay was introduced as part of the COVID-19 response, but the union also expressed that premium pay should be maintained throughout the pandemic.”