Monday, March 30, 2020

Time for a living wage for supermarket workers

Since the lockdown began, we've all suddenly been reminded who the actually essential workers in our society are: not the people at the top who pay themselves the big bucks and rort the perks, but the people at the bottom they screw over and squeeze: cleaners, warehouse staff, truck drivers and supermarket workers. Typically, these groups are paid minimum wage, on the basis that what they do isn't essential. But faced with growing public anger over this, both major supermarket chains have suddenly agreed to bonus pay during the lockdown:

Countdown will give staff a 10 percent wage increase to its supermarket and distribution workers during the four-week lockdown.

It follows a similar announcement from Foodstuffs over the weekend.

Countdown managing director Natalie Davis said paying team members more reflects the essential service they are providing the country.

"As well as paying our supermarket and distribution centre teams more, we are also supporting any of our team members whom the government has deemed high risk so they can be encouraged to stay home and not worry about work," she said.

Countdown said it has been paying any of its team who is required to self-isolate due to travel since February and was also paying any team members the government has deemed to be high risk.

Which is great. And at the same time, not enough. These people are doing essential work, keeping us all fed and alive during a crisis. At the least, they deserve a living wage. Countdown staff will be getting that from September, but it should be brought forward. As for Foodstuffs, they should pay their workers what they're worth. Or else the public is going to judge them for it.