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B.C. won’t include grocery store workers in pandemic top-up

Workers restock grocery store shelves with canned goods early in the morning in this file photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn

The B.C. government is hoping private businesses will step up and provide pay increases for their workers who were not included in the pandemic top-up pay announced by the province last week.

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“We know this situation is difficult for many workers,” Finance Minister Carole James said in a statement. “I’m very pleased to see private sector employers, such as grocery stores, are stepping up to provide pay increases for their workers.

“That’s the kind of behaviour that will help us all get through this together. I would encourage all businesses who’ve seen an increase in revenue to ensure that their workers are being properly compensated at this difficult time.”

Health and social service workers delivering in-person, front-line care in B.C. will receive temporary COVID-19 pandemic pay.

More than 250,000 workers are eligible for the lump-sum payment, which works out to $4 per hour for a 16-week period, dating back to March 15.

There was some criticism of the announcement that workers who work in sectors that have been required to remain open and that serve the public were not getting that top-up — those in grocery stores and banks, transit workers and security employees, to name a few.

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“We understand that there is a finite amount of money available and that a line must be drawn somewhere, but the existing set-up leaves out far too many deserving workers,” David Black, president of MoveUP, said in a release.

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“The government should be lauded for recognizing these workers but we want to ensure all deserving workers – the ones who deal with vulnerable people in a sector that has been required to remain open to ensure our communities continue to function – can have access to this benefit.”

MoveUP represents more than 12,000 union members at public and private sector companies in Western Canada, primarily in British Columbia.

The Ministry of Finance says B.C.’s temporary pandemic pay recognizes the critical health and social services that are supporting those who most vulnerable during this pandemic but there are many other critical workers providing support across the province.

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The government has previously announced low-income workers will receive a one-time enhancement to the B.C. Climate Action Tax Credit in July.

The minimum wage will also be increased on June 1 by $0.75 to $14.60 an hour.

The province says it will also work with the federal government to ensure supports remain in place for employers and workers, through programs such as wage subsidies, increased federal and provincial tax credits or enhanced supports.

“Benefits like the temporary pandemic pay should be seen as recognizing the extraordinary efforts of these front-line workers who have kept our economy going during this challenging period,” Black said.


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