Kroger announces new bonuses after cutting hazard pay

CINCINNATI, OHIO (AP) – Just days after announcing it would end hazard “hero” pay to frontline workers, Kroger said it will give them extra “thank you” bonuses, the Cincinnati Enquirer reported.

The move comes after an outcry from the grocery store’s union, the United Food and Commercial Workers Internationa (UFCW) l, which said workers are still risking their lives by coming to work.

The bonus is USD400 for full-time workers and USD200 for part-time workers to be paid out in two instalments on May 30 and June 18, Kroger announced on Friday. Hazard pay was a USD2-per-hour supplement.

UFCW Local 75 president Kevin Garvey said the union will continue to pressure the company to provide bonus pay for as long as the pandemic goes on.

“COVID-19 is not going away soon,” he said. “Our members still have to work in the same conditions and deal with the same pressures. They are worth every penny of the USD2 premium and the (latest) bonus.”

The Cincinnati-based company did not address the dispute with its union in its announcement. The grocer estimates the new bonus will provide USD130 million to its workers.

“Our associates have been instrumental in feeding America while also helping to flatten the curve during the initial phases of the pandemic. To recognise and thank our associates for their incredible work during this historic time, we offered special pay in March, April and May,” said CEO Rodney McMullen, in a statement.

Nationwide, UFCW International estimates that at least 65 grocery workers have died at Kroger and other retailers after contracting the coronavirus.

Also on Friday, UFCW International called on 49 major grocery companies, including at Walmart, Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods, Costco and Sam’s Club, to extend hazard pay for their workers.

File photo shows Sherman Jenne, a cashier at the Fred Meyer grocery store in Burien, Washington, participating in a protest outside the store against Fred Meyer’s parent company, Kroger. PHOTO: AP