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Kroger to stop offering 'hero bonus' for employees, unions ask it be continued

The bonus for employees on the frontlines of COVID-19 is scheduled to end May 16.
Credit: Jonathan Weiss
Kroger store in Indianapolis. (Source; Shutterstock/Jonathan Weiss)

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WHAS) — A union representing more than 100,000 grocery store workers is asking Kroger to continue paying its hourly "hero bonus" during the coronavirus pandemic.

Spokesperson Erin Grant said the bonus is scheduled to end May 16.

"In the coming months, we know that our associates' needs will continue to evolve and change as our country recovers," Grant said. "Our commitment is that we will continue to listen and be responsive, empowering us to make decisions that advance the needs of our associates, customers, communities and business. We continuously evaluate employee compensation and benefits packages."

Kroger first announced an extra $2 per hour would be available for those in groceries, pharmacies and even call centers in April.

In a statement released on Friday, some branches of the UFCW union called on Kroger to maintain the bonuses, improve store safety practices, and provide COVID-19 testing to all employees.

Grant said the company will offer testing for associates, provide emergency leave and benefits packages, as well as implement customer capacity limits and other actions to ensure employees' safety.

"We are committed to the continued support of our associates’ safety and mental well-being, and we’ll continue our ongoing discussions on these critical aspects with the UFCW," Grant said.

Washington affiliate KREM2 said union representatives said there has been an uptick in coronavirus cases in its members.

“On May 1, 2020 I received notification from Kroger that the 'hero bonus' premium, which adds $2.00 per hour premium, is expected to end May 16th, 2020," said UFCW Local 1439 President Eric Renner. "Kroger acknowledges that masks and social distancing will continue past the expiration of the premium. In summary the Company understands that the risk is still there to contract COVID-19, sales have increased immensely but the 'hero bonus' that our Frontline Workers have received for their sacrifice is expected to expire."

Renner said the decision was disappointing to not only their members, but the entire community.