OTTAWA -- Loblaws is raising wages for its workers as stores deal with busy crowds and dramatic changes amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

"We have made the decision to temporarily increase compensation for our store and distribution centre colleagues by approximately 15% retroactive to March 8th," company chairman Galen Weston said in a note to PC optimum users on Saturday.

Weston said the move is “in recognition of their outstanding and ongoing efforts keeping our stores open and operating so effectively.”

Many retail outlets have been forced to close as the number of coronavirus cases increases across Canada, but grocery stores and pharmacies have remained open.

“Our extraordinary teams are motivated by what they see as a responsibility to Canadians and the opportunity to make a difference,” Weston added, “But, unlike so many businesses across the country right now, our supermarkets and pharmacies are performing well.

“The leaders in our business wanted to make sure that a significant portion of that benefit would go straight into the pockets of the incredible people on the front line and in our distribution centres.”

For a minimum wage employee, the 15 per cent increase represents a pay bump of about $2 an hour.

The wage increase will apply to both full-time and part-time workers at all Loblaw stores and its associated banners, including Shoppers Drug Mart.

The president of the United Food and Commercial Workers union, which represents more than 90,000 Loblaw employees, commended the move.

“The commitment shown by UFCW Canada members to their communities as front-line workers to provide safe, high quality food and essential goods throughout this situation has been truly amazing,” Paul Meinema said in a statement. “We commend Loblaw for showing leadership on this wage increase and call on other employers to follow this important example."

Earlier this week, Weston announced a host of changes Loblaws would be making in stores, including reduced hours, more pre-packaged products, and limiting the number of customers in its busiest stores.


Weston said Saturday that Loblaws stores would also be installing plexiglass shields in front of checkout counters.

The company is also working to secure masks, hand sanitizer and gloves for its employees, he added.