I am still an essential worker — don’t take away our pay hike

Posted on June 16, 2020 in Debates, Delivery System

TheStar.com- Opinion/Contributors

My name is Amanda Nagy and I take pride in being an assistant bakery manager at one of the busiest grocery stores in Hamilton. I grew up in the GTA and went to school in Toronto and had dreams of becoming a pastry chef for a small business.

After struggling to live in Toronto (due to a low-paying job and high rent), I was lucky to have been given the opportunity to move to Hamilton, where I knew my family and I were going to have a better quality of life. I was hired at Fortino’s as a cake decorator and with hard work and experience I was able to make a career out of it.

Although I was proud of what I had been able to accomplish (buying a home, raising a family, doing additional precision work on the side) I had always felt like I was “selling out” by working for a large corporation. Additionally, I have previously been slightly embarrassed and ashamed to tell the parents of my son’s friends or other friends that I work at a grocery store, however, the coronavirus pandemic has significantly changed the way I see the work I do; and I have become passionate about my career again.

At the beginning of the COVID-19 outbreak, it didn’t take long for me to realize how adaptable our workforce is and how we’re able to work through daily changes in safety standards all while staying calm during the first weeks of the pandemic. As workers, we went from invisible to essential and to being called “heroes” in a matter of days. UFCW went to work and negotiated strong safety measures and an hourly premium of an additional $2 on top of employee regular pay, thus, allowing most of the food chain supply to follow suit.

The $2-an-hour raise gave most of my coworkers the boost they needed to make a living wage in Canada; in short, that means it took a pandemic for the majority of the food supply chain to be able to afford to live.

Personally, I have been able to treat my family to takeout after working longer days than normal (and in support of local businesses) and I was finally able to purchase two Canadian-made raised steel garden beds for some fresh home grown produce.

Apart from the stability that comes with the extra money, the new hourly premium has given all our employees some well-deserved recognition in our industry. Our communities have stood behind us and our money is essentially going right back into our economy; whether it be to support local small businesses or just picking up some essentials from the store.

The wage increase has made a significant impact on so many employees and their families and this is not the time to take it away from us. We are Still Essential! We are still in a state of emergency! We still need the pay we deserve.

Amanda Nagy is a resident of Hamilton, who has worked in the food supply chain industry for 19 years. She is a wife, mother and passionate advocate for workers rights. Olivia Lodge lives in Hamilton and has seven years experience in customer service.



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