Kroger to end ‘hero pay’ for essential employees; local workers frustrated

Business

(WAVY) — Extra pay for essential employees at Kroger is coming to an end.

This comes as Virginia nears the first phase of reopening the state on Friday.

The company offered “hero pay” for its workers who were risking possible exposure to coronavirus to keep stores up and running.

10 On Your Side spoke to a Kroger employee who said the pandemic hasn’t ended, so neither should the hazard pay.

Since March, Kroger employees on the front lines have been making an extra $2 per hour on top of their base pay, for keeping stores running during the pandemic.

“We’ve been very busy. Now that they’re going to open up the state, we’re going to be more busy,” said Janet Wainwright.

Wainwright works at a Kroger location in Yorktown. She told 10 On Your Side she’s risking her health just by coming to work — so she wasn’t happy to hear the company is ending that extra pay on May 16.

“This is real. It affects our lives. It affects our families’ lives,” Wainwright said. “$2 an hour — that’s only $80 a week more for someone that is full-time.”

The “hero pay” has been extended twice in addition to a one-time bonus for front line workers. However, the United Food and Commercial Workers union — which represents local Kroger employees — is demanding it be extended again.

“The danger the workers face everyday is still present, and with no vaccine in sight, will continue to be for quite some time. These heroes deserve to be compensated for the service they continue to provide to the community,” UFCW Local 400, the union representing the workers, said in a statement.

The UFCW also wants the company to require customers to wear masks along with increasing security. 

“We’ve had meat thrown at us because we had to limit how much food they can buy,” Wainwright said.

A Kroger spokesperson sent 10 On Your Side a statement about ending “hero pay.”

“Our commitment is that we will continue to listen and be responsive, empowering us to make decisions that advance the needs of our associates, customers, communities and business. We continuously evaluate employee compensation and benefits packages.

We are committed to the continued support of our associates’ safety and mental well-being, and we’ll continue our ongoing discussions on these critical aspects with the UFCW.” 

– Kroger

Wainwright hopes the company will reconsider its decision.

“With a multi-million dollar company like we have, it shouldn’t be a problem for them to continue ‘hero pay’ until this pandemic is over,” she said. 

Kroger said it’s supporting employees in various ways. COVID-19 testing is provided for employees based on symptoms and the company is also supplying them with masks.

The grocery chain is also providing financial support through a special fund for any employees experiencing financial hardships due to the pandemic.


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