Kroger Institutes ‘Hero Bonus’ for Frontline Associates
The Kroger Co. has revealed that it will give all hourly frontline grocery, supply chain, manufacturing, pharmacy and call center associates what it has dubbed a “Hero Bonus” – that is, a $2 premium above their standard base rate of pay, applied to hours worked March 29 through April 18. The premium will be distributed weekly to ensure that employees can access additional cash.
This move is in addition to the one-time bonus Kroger implemented March 21 for frontline associates, who will receive the payment April 3. The company has also rolled out such safety measures as social distancing signage and plexiglass shields at checkout.
“Our associates have displayed the true actions of a hero, working tirelessly on the frontlines to ensure everyone has access to affordable, fresh food and essentials during this national emergency,” noted Kroger Chairman and CEO Rodney McMullen. “The Hero Bonus is just one more way we continue to convey our thanks and gratitude not only to our existing associates, but also to the more than 30,000 new hires who have joined in the past two weeks and those who will soon join the Kroger Family of Companies.”
“Recently, we announced an appreciation bonus for our hourly frontline associates,” said Tim Massa, the grocer’s SVP and chief people officer. “This gesture was to thank our associates for everything they have done during the past few weeks. However, we recognize that this crisis is far from over, and after reflecting on associate feedback and working together with our union partners, we want to further acknowledge our terrific team for their hard work to date as well as the work yet to come.”
Marc Perrone, president of Washington, D.C.-based UFCW International, the largest private-sector union in the United States, called the pay and benefits increase “a good first step in our ongoing conversations with Kroger to keep customers and workers safe in stores during this crisis. We look forward to continuing to work with Kroger to strengthen support and protections for these essential workers on the front lines of this outbreak as they continue to serve families across the country.”
Added McMullen, “During this unprecedented time, Kroger's most urgent priority is to provide a safe environment for associates and customers, with open stores and an efficiently operating supply chain.”
Along with the bonuses, Kroger is taking several further actions to support associates, among them:
- Ensuring that employees affected by COVID-19 – whether experiencing symptoms and self-isolating, diagnosed, or in quarantine – can recover while receiving emergency paid leave.
- Beginning next week, the grocer will add ExpressPay, a new benefit that enables most hourly associates to access some of their pay faster.
- Giving $5 million to those facing hardship, including lack of access to child care and those considered higher-risk for experiencing complications of the virus, through the Kroger Family of Companies Helping Hands fund.
- Setting up an associate hotline to answer benefit questions.
- Providing access to mental health services and other benefits.
- Onboarding more than 30,600 new hires over the past two weeks, including workers from such hard-hit industries as restaurants, hotels and foodservice distributors.
Cincinnati-based Kroger employs nearly half a million associates who serve 9 million-plus customers daily through a seamless digital shopping experience and 2,769 retail food stores under a variety of banner names. The company is No. 2 on Progressive Grocer’s 2019 Super 50 list of the top grocers in the United States.