Kroger announces new bonuses after cutting hazard pay

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FILE – In this June 15, 2017, file photo, bagged purchases from the Kroger grocery store in Flowood, Miss., sit inside this shopping cart. A group of Instacart workers are organizing a strike across the U.S. starting Monday, March 30, 2020, to demand more pay and protection as they struggle to meet a surge in demand for grocery deliveries during the coronavirus pandemic. It was unclear how many of Instacart’s shoppers – most of whom work as independent contractors – would join the strike. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis, File)

CINCINNATI, Ohio (AP) — Just days after announcing it would end hazard “hero” pay to front-line workers, Kroger says it will give them extra “thank you” bonuses, the Cincinnati Enquirer reports.

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

The bonus is $400 for full-time workers and $200 for part-time workers to be paid out in two installments on May 30 and June 18, Kroger announced Friday. Hazard pay was a $2-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 $2.00 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 $130 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 recognize 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.

In his letter, Perrone challenged the companies’ executives to publicly state they think the dangers of COVID-19 have passed if they chose to stop hazard pay.

For most people, the new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms that clear up within weeks. For some, especially older adults and those with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness and be life-threatening.

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