While many people across Canada are staying home, and the government institutes new measures to keep people safe, some employees still have to go to work. The government has indicated that members of essential services must stay and continue their work. These essential services include the LCBO, grocery store chains and gas stations.
John White was recently hired at Fortinos, a grocery store chain in Burlington, Ont. He talks to Skedline about how his work has changed since COVID-19.
How long have you been working at Fortinos?
About six weeks.
And what are the biggest things that you have noticed between when you started and what’s going on now?
When the first cases came into North America, I noticed that the store got really packed with people buying out everything. I work in produce and we ran out of garlic. Some people were saying garlic helps against coronavirus. And, of course, the toilet paper. It was as if the store was not going to get any more food, and the store still gets two truckloads of food every day.
Since we’ve settled in, they are now limiting the people coming into the store, and now the store seems very empty to when I first started. Now they have lots of protective things in place. How far away you should stay from people.
I know that multiple grocery store chains wanted to hire more people. Have you noticed more workers come along?
The biggest change in workers I’ve seen is with personal shoppers. Clearly people are not even risking going to the grocery store. I’ve also noticed signs all around for “Temporary positions are available for all departments. Please apply.”
My department has not gotten any new staff since I’ve started.
Is there any extra procedure you need to take regarding hand washing and making sure you keep the produce clean?
We now wear gloves all the time and we clean as we go. So when a tray empties out or is very low on, for example, apples, we take all the apples off, spray down the tray, wipe it up, then put the apples back on. We do that over the course of the day as opposed to a cleanup at the end of the day.
What has the reaction been to people coming into the grocery store? Do they say anything to you?
Most people don’t even notice me. They are busy with their own shopping. I have had some people come up and thank me for my service, which seems a little bit odd, but it was nice to hear. The other thing is when someone would ask a question, they are deliberately six feet away, and when I take a step towards them, which is sort of a natural thing to do, they’ll tell me to stop. We have to talk at a distance. Some people will come in, around one in 10, with a mask, and that slowly has been increasing and sometimes it is tough to hear them.
Have you seen any increase with regard to pay for yourself?
After the coronavirus became big in Canada, Fortinos gave me a two-dollar-an-hour raise temporarily, as we fight this coronavirus.
Last thing I wanna ask: Since these new procedures have come in, do you think there is any chance that, after COVID-19 goes away, they may stay in place?
It is hard to see them going away. All these things would be helpful to stopping the regular flu. Especially the plastic barriers where the cashiers are. They look pretty permanent. It’s hard to see it going back to normal, but who knows? Nothing like this has ever happened before.