With coronavirus (COVID-19) spreading rapidly nationwide, Albertsons Cos. plans to install plexiglass barriers in its checkout lanes to safeguard shoppers and cashiers.
Also yesterday, Albertsons announced an “appreciation pay” program that will temporarily lift hourly wages for all non-union and union frontline associates.
The plexiglass “sneeze guards” will be deployed in the Boise, Idaho-based grocery retailer’s 2,200-plus stores over the next two weeks. The company said many locations will have the barriers in place within the next few days.
Albertsons called the move an “added precaution.” Through March 20, coronavirus cases in the United States totaled 15,219 in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and several U.S. territories, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“We recognize that we provide an essential service to our communities,” Albertsons Cos. President and CEO Vivek Sankaran said in a statement. “We are doing everything we can to provide a safe, secure, and comfortable shopping space for our valued customers. This is an extra step to protect our associates who are in constant contact with the public and provide our customers with extra reassurance as well.”
Other measures being taken in stores to help prevent transmission of COVID-19 include suspension of self-service operations like soup bars, wing bars, and salad bars; reserved shopping times for seniors and other vulnerable customers who must leave home to get groceries; and more thorough cleaning and disinfecting of all departments, restrooms and other high-touch areas of the store throughout the day, as well as a deep cleanse at the end of each business day. Cart wipes and hand sanitizer stations also are being provided to customers.
Overall, Albertsons Cos. operates stores in 34 states and D.C. under 20 retail banners, including Albertsons, Safeway, Vons, Jewel-Osco, Shaw’s, Acme, Tom Thumb, Randalls, United Supermarkets, Pavilions, Star Market, Haggen and Carrs.
To recognize employees’ stepped-up efforts to keep groceries on shelves and provide a safe environment for fellow associates and customers, Albertsons also is giving hourly union and non-union workers a temporary, $2-per-hour raise atop their regular hourly pay and overtime.
The increase became effective March 15 and will run until at least the end of the following pay period on March 28, covering about 230,000 Albertsons’ employees, such as e-commerce pickers and drivers, store associates, distribution center workers and manufacturing plant staff, the company said late Friday.
“In ways that we could not even imagine, overnight our country changed. And as a result, it changed the way our teams conduct business,” according to Sankaran. “I am so proud to say our teams did not skip a step. In our manufacturing plants, distribution centers and in our stores, our associates are working tirelessly to serve our customers. They work every day to keep our communities fed, their pantries and medicine cabinets stocked, and to ensure one less worry on our customers’ minds as we all face this unprecedented pandemic.”
Albertsons said the temporary wage increase was requested by its division presidents and supported by its board of directors and owners, including Cerberus Capital Management. The company added that it will assess the situation on an ongoing basis and make changes as needed.
United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) yesterday credited Albertsons Cos. subsidiary Safeway for agreeing to the $2 hourly wage increase for its grocery workers during the coronavirus outbreak.
“After close talks between Safeway and UFCW, the union representing over 1.3 million grocery store and food processing workers, we are proud to support the significant wage increase adopted by Safeway, one of America’s largest supermarket companies,” UFCW International President Marc Perrone said in a statement. “Safeway and the UFCW both recognize that grocery store workers are on the frontlines of this crisis. They are vital to our food supply and serving the needs of millions of American families.”
Perrone added that the move underscores the need for the nation to protect the food supply and grocery stores — and, in turn, their employees — during this time of crisis.
“What Safeway did today shows real leadership. They worked with our union family and they recognized the incredible hard work and sacrifices that our members and all grocery workers are making every single day across this nation. This pay increase will not only help protect these workers and support their families, it will also ensure they are able to continue to perform an absolutely vital role in our communities,” he said. “We hope that this sends a message to every supermarket, grocery store and food retail employer — union and non-union — across this country that it is time for every company to recognize the sacrifice America’s food workers are making.”
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