Three of the largest grocery chains, Loblaw, Empire and Metro, are defending their decision to have simultaneously put an end to the pay incentives to their employees, to be allocated in the framework of the pandemic COVID-19.
July 10, 2020 19h49
Updated at 22h01
COVID-19: large grocery stores defend the withdrawal of premiums to employees
The canadian Press
OTTAWA — The leaders of three of the largest grocery chains, Loblaw, Empire and Metro, were in communication prior to the grant and prior to the removal of pay incentives allocated in the context of the pandemic COVID-19, but they deny that their decisions were coordinated.
The standing Committee on industry, science and technology of the House of commons has cooked Friday, the big boss of Loblaw, Empire and Metro, asking them to explain why they have all stopped paying these bonuses as early as June 13.
The three leaders said they took this decision independently, taking into account several factors, knowing the intentions of their competition after sometimes exchanged phone calls and e-mails.
The president of Loblaw, Sarah Davis, has admitted to having sent what it refers to as an “e-mail courtesy” for the launch of the program of compensation enhanced. And it has also accused its competitors, on the 11th of June, when Loblaw has elected to terminate the program.
The president and chief executive officer of Metro, Eric La Flèche, acknowledges that his company was aware of the approach of Loblaw when she put an end to his own premiums, but he said that it was”a contributing factor” in his decision-making process.
On the side of the Empire, which holds the trademark Sobeys and Safeway, the president and chief executive officer Michael Medline claims to have got wind of the decision of Loblaw, without, however, receiving the email from Ms. Davis.
“Let me be absolutely clear, we have not coordinated our decisions”, said Mr. Medline, in his opening remarks to the committee.
“The decision was ours.”
Sarah Davis, abounded in the same sense, but a recognition of their having passed an “e-mail courtesy” to Walmart and Save-On-Foods. These other businesses were not represented on Friday during the hearing of two hours before the committee of Commons.
The e-mail from Ms. Davis were receiving the decision of Loblaw to put an end to its program as of 13 June. Loblaw had already informed its some 200,000 employees and affirmed that “the new would immediately be made public”, said Ms Davis.
In the Face of questions from the committee, Mr. La Flèche said that he had indeed taken note of this email when Metro has decided to withdraw its premiums simultaneously.
“We have taken our own decision from the information available, which included the latter piece of information, yes,” he said.
Among the other factors that weighed in the balance include the reopening of other retailers, low business volumes, the gradual return to normal and the recovery of the economy more generally, has-t-he stressed.
Ms. Davis was said to have received a response to his e-mail of 11 June, which it must submit copies to the committee.
Apart from this ” first “e-mail” courtesy sent as Loblaw had initially decided to establish the premiums, Ms. Davis has said that he did not remember other electronic correspondence of its kind.
Mr. La Flèche acknowledged that it had, for its part, has made several phone calls during the months of may and June to ask his competitors if they were to extend their premiums.
“In full accordance with the Law on competition, I asked my vis-à-vis their intentions regarding the maintenance or not of the premium temporary”, he said.
They replied that their decision was not taken yet.
“Anyway, these calls had been made within the framework of a decision-making process much more broad and (…) have not informed our decisions.”
When asked why he had made such calls, Mr. Arrow replied that he “wanted as much information as possible in order to make the best decision for our company, for our employees, at the appropriate time”. It was “absolutely not” a question of reaching a tacit agreement on wages, he maintained.
Leaders who have contacted their vis-à-vis say they have first sought legal advice. Lawyers would also have been present during at least a telephone discussion.
According to the president of Uniforms and equipment, Jerry Dias, the hearing was an opportunity for these business leaders to admit that they were wrong to withdraw the bonuses.
“Instead, we had the right leaders, grocery store paid handsomely, insisting on the fact that there was no collusion, and then declaring in a remarkable manner nearly the same thing again and again”, ” he protested in a press release.
“I look forward to the decision of the committee on this subject.”
The union claims that the premiums are converted into salary increases on a permanent basis and has been critical of retailers who have withdrawn while the pandemic is still fighting in full swing.