A West Kelowna Walmart employee is planning a one-day strike on Friday, Sept. 4. (Patrick T. Fallon - Bloomberg)

West Kelowna Walmart employee planning strike over pandemic pay, wage inequality

‘How do they want to force people to wear masks but they don’t want to pay us hazard pay?’

Nain Martinez began working at West Kelowna Walmart in March, as many businesses across the country began to shut down due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

He watched business after business shutter operations and saw people isolate themselves in their homes as the pandemic began to take a stranglehold on the economy.

But, Martinez kept going to work.

Walmart, being deemed an essential business, never curtailed its operations.

However, as staff at the store could be potentially exposed to a dangerous virus, Walmart gave them an extra $2 an hour in “pandemic pay,” in line with several other grocers across the country.

In June, as the economy began to reopen, most of those grocers nixed that pay — something Martinez feels he and his fellow workers should still be receiving.

“We run risks every day not only for us but for our families too,” he said. “And, Walmart takes advantage of that when possible.

“How do they want to force people to wear masks but they don’t want to pay us hazard pay?”

This — alongside several other grievances — is the subject of a one-day strike Martinez has organized against his employer on Friday, Sept. 4.

However, he is not sure how many of his fellow workers will stand with him during the strike.

“The plan is to ask Walmart to do what is right and stop abusing its employees. If Walmart decides to ignore the problem then we plan to not work that day.”

Other issues Martinez has is that of Walmart’s treatment of its staff, including wage inequality between new and senior staff members, lack of holiday time and part-time employees working full-time hours without the health benefits.

“The employees are terrified of Walmart because they say that Walmart would rather close down the store than to let the workers form a union. How is it that essential workers have absolutely no one to defend them at all?

“It’s not about the money. It’s about doing what’s right.”

In response to Martinez’s allegations, Walmart Canada said it provides competitive compensation packages to its employees and all hourly associates across the country make more than minimum wage.

“Earlier this year, we accelerated $16 million in bonus payments for hourly associates. Hourly associate bonuses are typically paid out in one payment following the store’s yearly performance,” said Felicia Fefer, Walmart Canada’s corporate affairs manager.

“In addition, we are offering multiple enhanced discount days throughout the summer, where associates can enjoy an added discount on their purchases, on top of their existing regular associate discount. Additionally, we’re offering access to live online physician care for all 90,000 associates at no cost so that they can get the advice and care they need.”

READ MORE: Grocers appear before MPs to explain decision to cut pandemic pay

READ MORE: Unions tell MPs that grocery workers should still have pandemic pay

Do you have something to add to this story, or something else we should report on? Email: michael.rodriguez@kelownacapnews.com


@michaelrdrguez
Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Coronavirus

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Vernon cyclist struck by vehicle rides 1,625 km in challenge

Avid cyclist raises over $2,500 in August’s Great Cycle Challenge Canada after being hit by a vehicle in May

City reintroduces online tool to Vernon in new video

New video highlights benefits and features of MyCity

Nine new COVID-19 cases announced in Interior Health region

The total number of cases since the pandemic started is now at 531 for the region

BC VOTES 2020: Vernon nurse running for NDP

Harwinder Sandhu, who ran for NDP in 2019 federal vote, is declared Vernon-Monashee candidate

More victims possible in Vernon assault case

Police have a man in custody but feel there could be more victims in the case

Weekend sees 267 cases, 3 deaths in B.C.; Dr. Henry says events leading to COVID spread

There are currently 1,302 active cases in B.C., while 3,372 people are under public health monitoring

Lightning strike: Tampa Bay blanks Dallas 2-0 to win Stanley Cup

Hedman wins Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP

16 MLAs retiring from B.C. politics add up to $20M in pensions: Taxpayers Federation

Taxpayers pay $4 for every dollar MLAs contribute to their pensions

Motorcycle rider identified following fatal crash in Peachland

Michael Odenbach died in a motorcycle collision on Sept. 27

Liberals seek to fast track new COVID-19 aid bill after CERB expires

Government secured NDP support for legislation by hiking amount of benefits by $100 to $500 per week

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

B.C. VOTES 2020: Echoes of HST in B.C. debate over sales tax

Cannabis, tobacco, luxury cars still taxed in B.C. Liberal plan

Shuswap BC SPCA launches spay/neuter program for low-income residents

Program available to low-income residents in the region

Most Read