CINCINNATI - Kroger is ending its bonus "hero" pay for hourly workers in mid-May over the objection of its union, which notes the hazards associates face from the new coronavirus pandemic have not faded.
According to our media partners at the Cincinnati Enquirer, the union has urged Cincinnati-based Kroger to extend the extra pay “for as long as we face a global pandemic.”
Kroger, the nation’s largest supermarket chain, says it’s sticking to its plan to sunset the bonus pay, adding the company would “continue our ongoing discussion” regarding safety and other issues.
The bonus pay was an extra $2 an hour for frontline workers in stores, factories, pharmacies, call centers and warehouses. The extra money started March 29 and ends Saturday.
The change comes just as Walmart announced yet another round of bonus pay on Tuesday for its associates that will pay out in late June.
It also comes as Kroger disclosed Tuesday that its CEO Rodney McMullen was given a 21% pay raise (about $2.5 million) in the last fiscal year for a total compensation package of $14.2 million.
"Our commitment is that we will continue to listen and be responsive, empowering us to make decisions that advance the needs of our associates, customers, communities and business," Kroger said in a statement. "We continuously evaluate employee compensation and benefits packages."
Still, the union chided the company for declaring victory before the national crisis has passed.
“Statements by Kroger about ‘starting the path to recovery’ and ‘beginning to see a return to normal’ do not reflect the reality of the increasing number of cases and deaths across the country,” the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW) said in a letter sent to Kroger CEO Rodney McMullen.
The union said 72 of its workers have died from the coronavirus during the pandemic through the end of April. Those casualties include store and manufacturing workers at Kroger and other companies.
Kroger officials say their total fatalities from the pandemic number less than 10 out of more than half a million workers.
Kroger’s move drew some ire on social media.
Kroger officials noted their average hourly wage was $15 or $20, if you include health and other benefits.
Along with other retailers, Kroger first handed out bonus pay in late March as the pandemic led to mass shutdowns of restaurants and spurred consumers to stock up their pantries.
Kroger said its March sales excluding fuel surged 30 percent amid the frenzy. The company also hired more than 80,000 new workers