After two weeks of workers at Victoria’s Lifestyle Markets demanding hazard pay during the COVID-19 pandemic, a group of activists decided to hold a protest in person, while still maintaining physical distances.
A group of 20 customers, workers, and labour activists showed up at a Lifestyle Markets store on Thursday afternoon, banging pots and pans in an effort to disrupt regular business and provoke a response from management.
“We are weeks into a campaign, trying to get even the slightest response from the employer. They are ignoring the demands of the staff, and disrespecting our community in the process,” said Eric Nordal, a member of the Retail Action Network, in a statement.
“Hopefully a couple dozen pots and pans echoing through the aisles will get the attention of the management. We want them to know that it will not be business as usual so long as they neglect their employees.”
The group has been calling for a hazard pay of $3 per hour for all staff members paid retroactively from March 15th until the end of the pandemic.
According to a petition delivered to Lifestyle Markets general manager, Carmine Sparanese, grocery workers are also asking for six days of paid sick leave. So far, 284 people have signed this petition.
Activists allege that the store owner, Lorraine Peterson, was present during the protest on Thursday, but has not yet issued a response.
Staff at Lifestyle Markets recently voted to join the United Food and Commercial Workers union, local 1518 (UFCW 1518) and are in the process of bargaining a first agreement.
The union representative for Lifestyle Markets has stated that the employer does not need not wait until the end of contract negotiations to implement hazard pay.
“We put our lives at risk everyday going to work as frontline retail workers while the owner is making record sales. We want to be heard, we want a decent wage,” said a Lifestyle Markets employee in an anonymous statement.
Lifestyle Markets managers were not available to comment, however a lawyer representing the company emailed the following statement to Victoria Buzz in response to this protest:
“In a newly certified bargaining unit, collective bargaining is initiated when either the union or the employer serves the other party with a notice in writing to commence bargaining. Once such notice has been served, the employer is not entitled to increase or decrease the rates of pay of employees or to alter any other term or condition of their employment until four months after certification or until a collective agreement is negotiated, whichever occurs first.”
The lawyer in question adds that Lifestyle Markets will not respond to what they call intimidation tactics by the Retail Action Network or by employees, outside of the collective bargaining process.