'It took a pandemic' - Union thankful, but sceptical of 10 per cent bonus for some supermarket workers

The union representing many of New Zealand's supermarket workers says a 10 per cent bonus for those who work through the Covid-19 pandemic good, but should be permanent.

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Tali Williams says Foodstuffs had previously told them they couldn’t make decisions for all supermarkets. Source: Breakfast

Foodstuffs last night announced that they will be giving the bonus to all waged front-line, distribution and transport employees who continue to work through the Covid-19 lockdown.

Their supermarkets include Pak'nSave, New World and Four Square.

"This is in recognition of their willingness to ensure New Zealanders' grocery needs are met and for the tireless commitment they continue to show," Foodstuffs said in a statement.

"We've been totally focused on keeping shelves full and ensuring our customers and teams are safe - now that we have a better handle on these things, it's time to clear up how we're supporting our committed and essential team members."

Speaking this morning to Breakfast, FIRST Union representative Tali Williams said it was a step in the right direction, but also that the change should have come sooner.

She said the union has been arguing with Foodstuffs to secure a Living Wage for all workers for some time, as many remain on the minimum wage, but Foodstuffs had argued it couldn't make decisions on behalf of all of its franchisees.

However, with yesterday's U-turn, they had shown they could do precisely that if they wanted to, Ms Williams said.

"It took a pandemic for them to hear our cries, but finally they've done it," Ms Williams said.

She pointed out that the bonus payments will only apply for the four weeks of the lockdown, and said she doesn't want to see those workers going back to minimum wages afterwards.

The union's phone lines had been "running off the hook" about conditions in supermarkets, Ms Williams said, with many members saying they were not being provided with things like personal protective equipment, hand sanitiser and even soap.

She said the union is meeting with Countdown tomorrow to see if a similar arrangement can be reached.