The Saskatchewan government is facing multiple calls on for more action in recognition of “Grocery Heroes Day.”
Both the Saskatchewan Government and General Employees’ Union (SGEU) and the Saskatchewan Federation of Labour (SFL) highlighted a letter signed by Premier Scott Moe, thanking the front-line essential workers, which they critiqued as only words.
“Grocery store workers and other front-line staff deserve a lot more than just a thank-you note,” SGEU president Tracey Sauer said in a statement on Monday.
“These workers have worked incredibly hard, at great personal risk, to provide essential services throughout this (COVID-19) pandemic — they deserve real investments in their well-being. That premier Moe has chosen to pay lip service to these workers without taking action to improve their working conditions is simply not good enough.
“This pandemic has shown everyone that grocery store workers are essential, and a thank you doesn’t pay the rent. This government needs to invest in our province’s lowest-paid workers now.”
SFL president Lori Johb agreed, saying grocery workers deserve more than just words.
“Grocery workers have been on the front lines of Canada’s COVID-19 pandemic for the last year and a half,” Johb said in a press release.
“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.”
In a statement to Global News, the Saskatchewan Ministry of Labour Relations and Workplace Safety said, “we appreciate the role that grocery retail workers and other front-line staff have played in helping individuals, families and communities throughout the pandemic.”
Along with the Service Employees International Union (SEIU-West), the unions called for the minimum wage in the province to be raised as a sign of gratitude.
“As Premier Scott Moe continues to push Saskatchewan to ‘the way it should be,’ he and his government need to remember who bore the brunt of this pandemic and helped get the province to this point — front-line essential workers,” SEIU-West president Barb Cape said in a press release.
“There has been extensive damage done to our public service workforce in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic that needs to be repaired.”
The ministry said the minimum wage is only one of many tools used to support low-wage earners.
“Programs and policies such as decreasing the personal income tax rate and increasing the Saskatchewan Low Income Tax Credit also help low wage earners retain more of their disposable income,” read a statement from the ministry.
“As life returns to normal with the removal of the public health orders, sustainable and predictable increases to our minimum wage help ensure that everyone will be able to benefit from a strong and growing Saskatchewan economy.
“The government of Saskatchewan believes in supporting workers who need to be absent from work due to illness and amendments were made to The Employment Standards Regulations that allow eligible workers to continue to have job protection when away from work and applying for/receiving the Canada Recovery Caregiver Benefit and Canada Recovery Sickness Benefit.”