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

Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of Sept. 27 to Oct. 3

World Farm Animals Day, Drink Beer Day and Virus Appreciation Day are all coming up this week

Two new COVID-19 cases reported in Interior Health

The total number of Interior Health cases since the beginning of the pandemic is now at 522

The pandemic is far from over, says Kimberley Mayor

Be vigilant about hygiene, social distancing and masks, he says

QUIZ: Do you know what’s on TV?

Fall is normally the time when new television shows are released

Canadian ski resorts wrestle with pandemic-vs.-profit dilemma as COVID-19 persists

Few are actually restricting the total number of skiers they allow on the hill

Victoria-area RCMP locate high-risk sex offender thanks to help of taxi cab driver

Scott Jones wanted on a Canada-wide warrant, ‘a risk to women and girls,’ police say

A (virtual) walk around the world by 88-year-old B.C. man

George Doi says it’s simple: ‘I like walking’

End of CERB means uncertainty for some, new system for others

As of a week ago, the CERB had paid out $79.3 billion to 8.8 million people

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

Horgan, Wilkinson trade barbs over MSP premiums, health care at campaign stops

Horgan called a snap election for Oct. 24 earlier this week

PHOTOS: 2nd calf in a month confirmed among Southern Resident killer whale pod

Center for Whale Research said they will eagerly await to observe the calf to evaluate its health

Most Read