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Grocery stores hiring more staff, offer wage boost as BC adapts to COVID-19 buying habits – Surrey Now-Leader

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As COVID-19 spreads, grocery stores across the country are offering wage increases to employees, hiring temporary workers to keep up with demand and reserving exclusive shopping hours for the most vulnerable members of the community.

Wage increases for frontline store workers

On Friday, March 20, Save-On-Foods announced that employees working through the COVID-19 pandemic will receive a wage increase of $2 per hour dating back to March 8.

According to a written statement from the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) 1518 labour union, this retroactive pay bump will be doled out weekly and “is in recognition of grocery workers’ heroic efforts to keep the public fed, to get them their needed medical supplies and prescriptions, and to help keep them safe during this pandemic.”

READ ALSO: Save-On-Foods temporarily bans reusable shopping bags, suspends bottle returns

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The UFCW statement was updated to include that PriceSmart Foods and Urban Fare – subsidiaries of the Overwaitea Food Group which owns Save-On-Foods – had also announced a $2/hour wage increase.

Whole Foods Market also announced that employees in Canada and the U.S. will also receive a $2 wage increase through April and those who work overtime will be paid double their regular wage from March 16 through to May 3. Any staff needing to be quarantined will receive up to two extra weeks of paid time off.

READ ALSO: ‘I’m profoundly disappointed,’ Horgan says of COVID-19 panic buying

Employment Insurance top-ups for grocery store staff

Also on Friday, UFCW 1518 issued a statement announcing that Safeway and Sobey’s employees – members of UFCW 247 – would be receiving Employment Insurance top-ups if placed on a 14-day quarantine or self-isolation or if staff members need to take time off with their children or dependents.

Those placed of mandatory quarantine after travelling internationally will receive a top-up to 95 per cent of their annual salary and those on self-quarantine due to possible contamination will be topped-up to 70 per cent.

READ ALSO: Resist the urge to panic shop despite COVID-19 fears, Trudeau says

Hiring more staff to meet demands

Walmart Canada announced on Twitter that as of March 20, the company is looking to hire 10,000 more employees to work in stores and distribution centres as demand on grocery stores increases.

“There’s a lot of work and we need you,” said Walmart Canada CEO and president Horacio Barbeito in a written statement.

He added that the company’s 90,000 employees will be offered additional support including access to online physician care and that annual bonus payments have been accelerated.

On March 19, Save-On-Foods announced it will also be hiring temporary workers to help keep Canadians fed for the duration of the outbreak.

READ ALSO: Parksville homeless shelter forced to close due to COVID-19 concerns

Grocery stores alter hours of operation

Walmart Canada, Save-On-Foods, Whole Foods and many other grocery stores across the province have reduced their hours to give staff more time to restock shelves while the stores are closed and have opted to reserve the first hour of operation each morning for seniors and vulnerable shoppers.

For both Save-On-Foods and Walmart Canada, this means from 7 a.m. to 8 a.m., the only customers in the store will be those most vulnerable.

READ ALSO: Saanich grocers prepare staff for COVID-19

Other changes shoppers need to know about

  • Save-On-Foods has temporarily banned reusable bags and suspended bottle returns to reduce the spread of the virus.
  • Many stores including Walmart, Save-On-Foods and Thrifty Foods have limited quantities per customer to reduce panic-buying and stockpiling of goods.
  • “Shop normally, there’s enough food for everyone,” said Save-On-Foods president Darrell Jones in a YouTube video posted on March 18.
  • Walmart and Whole Foods are allowing home deliveries to be left at the front door.
  • Jones explained that Save-On-Foods’s delivery service website has been crashing due to increased traffic and encouraged those who can shop in-store to leave the delivery service for customers who need it most.

@devonscarlett
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devon.bidal@saanichnews.com

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Oil prices climb before OPEC+ talks, Asian shares falter – Aljazeera.com

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Oil prices climbed on Thursday, hours before the world’s largest oil producers are scheduled to meet to discuss output cuts as the coronavirus pandemic ravages demand.

Brent crude futures rose 2.5 percent or 81 cents to $33.65 as of 00:34 GMT after touching a high of $33.90, adding to gains in the previous session.

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United States crude futures were up 4.3 percent, or $1.08, at $26.17, having climbed as much as 6 percent the day before.

The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and allies including Russia, a group known as OPEC+, are set to convene a video conference meeting on Thursday.

The meeting is expected to be more successful than their gathering in March, where they failed to agree to extend supply cuts and triggered a price war between Saudi Arabia and Russia.

Hopes of an agreement to cut between 10 million and 15 million barrels per day (bpd) rose after media reports suggested Russia was ready to reduce its output by 1.6 million bpd and Algeria’s energy minister said he expected a “fruitful” meeting.

“I think there’ll be a deal, which will bring a bit of cheer in the short run. Then everyone’s attention will refocus on the fundamentals. The fundamentals are appalling,” Lachlan Shaw, head of commodity research at National Australia Bank told Reuters news agency.

Global demand for oil has shrunk significantly as the coronavirus outbreak triggered travel restrictions and temporary business closures. In India, the world’s third-biggest consumer, oil demand has collapsed as much as 70 percent, according to officials at the country’s refiners.

In contrast to oil prices, Asian shares were mixed on Thursday after a three-day rally, with investors mulling the spread of the coronavirus and when economies will be able to ramp up again.

Shares in Tokyo dipped with the Nikkei declining 0.23 percent in early trade, but were higher in Sydney and Seoul. Australia’s S&P/ASX 200 was up 1.51 percent and South Korea’s Kospi gained 1.3 percent.

In China, blue chips declined 0.47 percent while the broader Shanghai Composite Index fell 0.19 percent. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index was also in the red, down 1.17 percent. 

US S&P 500 Index futures edged up after the gauge jumped 3.4 percent on Wednesday as Joe Biden emerged as the Democratic frontrunner in the US presidential race, bringing its rise from the March low to more than 20 percent.

But investors are still looking at numbers of new coronavirus cases and deaths for clues on where the global economy is headed.

“It’s all a question of when the economy reopens and how quickly that happens,” Nancy Davis, a chief investment officer with Quadratic Capital Management LLC told Bloomberg. “We aren’t out of the woods.”

While the White House’s top health advisers are developing medical criteria for safely reopening the US economy in coming weeks should these trends hold steady, the coronavirus killed a record number of victims in the United Kingdom and Belgium, as well as in the hard-hit states of New York and New Jersey. The number of new cases in Italy and Spain crept up after several days of declines.

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WestJet to rehire nearly 6,400 workers with help of federal wage subsidy – CBC.ca

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WestJet says 6,400 workers will be brought back onto its payroll once the federal government has approved an emergency wage subsidy program.

In a statement Wednesday night, WestJet CEO Ed Sims cautioned that there might not be enough work for the rehired employees, but noted “it does help them make ends meet.

“We will be communicating with those WestJetters who are affected by this decision as soon as we can,” said Sims.

Last month, WestJet announced it was cutting roughly half of its 14,000 employees with the elimination of 6,900 positions.

Canada’s airline industry has seen a dramatic reduction in demand due to lockdowns to control the spread of the coronavirus that causes COVID-19. 

The Calgary-based airline’s move to rehire its employees follows a similar move by Air Canada, which announced Wednesday that it would rehire 16,500 laid-off workers with assistance from the same federal wage subsidy program. 

The federal government’s emergency wage subsidy — originally targeted only at small- and medium-sized businesses — was expanded earlier in April to cover a 75-per-cent wage subsidy for Canadian companies that had lost 30 per cent of revenue due to the pandemic.

WestJet said it can’t guarantee that all employees will be coming back to work in the short-term, but the new subsidy will help out.

After announcing layoffs in late March, WestJet executives took a 50-per-cent pay cut and vice-presidents and directors took a 25-per-cent cut.

The airline also said it would reduce the number of flights offered in Canada by about half due to a reduced demand for travel.

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Oil Prices Surge with Production Cut Anticipation By – Investing.com

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© Reuters.

By Gina Lee

Investing.com – Oil prices built on the momentum from the previous session as the price war between Russia and Saudi Arabia seems to be nearing a truce.

Russia said overnight that it was willing to reduce output by around 1.6 barrels daily, or 15%.  The announcement saw WTI futures surging to almost 12% as the session closed.

International  rose 2.62% to $33.7 by 10:1PM ET (3:19 AM GMT) and U.S.  jumped 3.71% to $26.02.

As the oil industry continues to grapple with a supply glut, with the COVID-19 pandemic shrinking demand, Russia’s declaration comes at an opportune time. The Energy Information Administration (EIA) said overnight that the U.S. crude oil inventory increased by 15.2 million barrels for the week ending April 3, against analyst expectations of a 9.37-million-barrel build.

The American Petroleum Institute (API) also estimated a build of 11.9 million barrels yesterday.

Investors are waiting to see if Russia will hold to its word at OPEC+’s virtual meeting later in the day.

“The coming extraordinary producing-countries meeting is the only hope in the horizon for the market that could prevent a total price collapse and production shut-ins,” Rystad Energy’s head of oil markets Bjornar Tonhaugen told CNBC.

“At the moment, prices are so volatile that any news or leaks about the direction of the negotiations could move them [prices] either way. As you have seen in recent days, price swings from gains to losses and back are not unusual in such times,” he added.

But some investors took a more skeptical view.

“OPEC+ is trying mightily to cobble together a sizable production cut, and they are in full spin mode to try and rally prices,” Again Capital’s John Kilduff told CNBC.

[OPEC’s meeting] will be a make-or-break moment for the oil market. The math on a 10 million barrel per day cutback, which is the minimum necessary to stabilize the situation, is almost impossible to compute. I expect a bad day for OPEC+ tomorrow,” he added.

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