Stop & Shop won’t extend pandemic ‘appreciation pay’ program
Even as union representatives contend that the ongoing pandemic merits continued “hazard pay” for Stop & Shop employees, the grocery store chain will halt an “appreciation pay” program that it had implemented in five northeast states in March.
The company announced in May that it would extend the program through July 4, providing hourly workers in Connecticut, Massachusetts, New York, New Jersey and Rhode Island with a 10% pay increase, according to an email from Stop & Shop spokeswoman Maura O’Brien.
But the program will not be extended.
While a union that represents employees at Stop & Shop locations in Connecticut, including the one at 5 River Road in Wilton, and western Massachusetts tried to negotiate with the chain to keep the program in place, the company declined to continue it, according to a letter sent from Ronald Petronella, interim president of the union.
“We are disgusted by this decision, especially while confirmed cases of COVID-19 continue to rise in much of the country, and several states in the Northeast have announced that they will be delaying planned reopenings,” Petronella said.
The letter went out to members of United Food and Commercial Workers Union Local 371.
The pay program was implemented amid “mounting public concern over the pandemic” and increased foot traffic to stores, according to O’Brien.
“Appreciation pay was created to show our thanks for the exceptionally hard work that associates put forth in extraordinary circumstances,” she said.
Now, the northeast states Stop & Shop serves are reopening more fully and consumer demand is returning to normal, according to O’Brien.
“We remain committed to taking significant steps to continue to keep our associates and customers safe,” she said, adding that other additional benefits associated with the pandemic, including a flexible leave policy, remain in place.
But union representatives have pointed out that there is still a national emergency and say COVID-19 is still a hazard for employees.
“On your paystub, it is called ‘national emergency pay,’ and according to all news reports, there is still a national emergency,” Petronella’s letter to union members said.
Keri Hoehne, a representative of Local 371, said that while the northeast is in better shape than much of the country, it is still threatened by increasing cases in other states.
“It’s still a pretty big hazard and our members are still getting sick,” she said. “They think that the hazard pay’s still justified because the hazard’s still there.”
According to O’Brien, Stop & Shop is one of the last American food retailers with an “appreciation pay” program still in place.
But Local 371 also represents employees at ShopRite, another Connecticut grocery store chain, where Hoehne says workers will continue to receive hazard pay through August 1, although at a lower rate than before.