May 30th, 2020

Grocery stores making adjustments to keep staff, patrons safe

By JEREMY APPEL on March 26, 2020.

jappel@medicinehatnews.com@MHNJeremyAppel

Grocery stores across the country are ramping up their sanitation practices to maintain an essential lifeline during the coronavirus pandemic.

A representative of Loblaw, which owns Superstore and Shoppers Drug Mart, outlined how the company plans to manage these “very unusual circumstances.”

Loblaw stores have reduced hours to give staff enough time to restock shelves, sanitize their facilities and rest.

Stores are open 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily, but the first hour is dedicated to seniors, disabled people and other at-risk groups.

Shoppers Drug Mart hours vary by location, but the first hour of shopping there will also be limited to vulnerable people.

The Carry Drive Shoppers is open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays and 4 p.m. Saturdays. The Dunmore Road location’s hours are 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. seven days a week, as is the Division Avenue store.

Loblaw is limiting the number of customers in each store at the same time to ensure appropriate social distancing for customers and employees, in addition to installing plexiglass shields and spacing markers at checkout, pharmacy counters and other locations where social distancing might be complicated.

The company says it’s attempting to secure medical-grade masks, hand sanitizer and gloves for its employees, but cautions there’s a “worldwide shortage” that will mean they take time to get to stores.

They’re encouraging customers to shop online to order items for pickup or delivery through PC Express, eliminating fees for those services.

Finally, Loblaw guarantees its employees won’t lose any pay for COVID-19-related absences.

United Food and Commercial Workers Local 401 president Thomas Hesse says these measures were the result of union advocacy.

The local, which represents workers at the local Superstore and Safeway, sent letters to employers last week drawing attention to health, safety and compensation issues related to the pandemic.

“Everyone now acknowledges that food is a human right. We’ve finally figured this out,” said Hesse. “Our workers are providing a basic human right to Canadians and they’re doing it at risk to themselves, their health and their well-being. They’re frontline workers.”

It’s crucial at this juncture to ensure no employee feels pressured to work when they are unwell, which works to everybody’s advantage, he says.

“If it’s a positive, safe experience, these employers stand to make a lot more money than they have and to treat their employees with compensation packages, fairness, and healthy and safety in ways they’ve never before,” Hesse said. “That’s the potential silver lining here.”

Representatives of Sobeys, which owns the local Safeway, IGA and, of course, Sobeys, were unable to provide comment by deadline.

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