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EDITORIAL: Shortchanging employees

Shoppers turned out for Black Friday sales, but some people who work in grocery and retail aren’t paid enough to avail of the bargains. — Reuters file photo

In 2016, Walmart in the United States got rid of holiday pay for busy days like Thanksgiving and put in place a more “streamlined” pay structure.

This year, it’s offering a two-day — today and tomorrow — 15 per cent in-store discount for those who worked the hectic Thanksgiving/Black Friday sales period.

It also rewarded employees by giving the opportunity to use their associate 10 per cent discount on “most grocery items” through to Jan. 3, 2020.

“We hope you know just HOW MUCH WE APPRECIATE all that you do throughout the year — and especially during the Holidays. Thank you for being amazing, and never forget how grateful we are for all you do,” one employee flyer explaining the discounts said.

Words, they say, are cheap.

In this province, Dominion employees are starting to talk about their contract battle with grocery giant Loblaws.

The main issue? Workers believe head office is replacing full-time jobs with part-time positions to cut wage and benefit costs. The workers contend that leaves them in a precarious financial position, having to worry about rent and, yes, even the cost of food.

We understand that it’s not always easy for employers to stay competitive. But, just like with the battle over prospective changes to the minimum wage, employers seem to be forgetting that employees who don’t have much in the way of disposable cash simply can’t afford to buy anything.

Workers believe head office is replacing full-time jobs with part-time positions to cut wage and benefit costs. The workers contend that leaves them in a precarious financial position, having to worry about rent and, yes, even the cost of food.

Precarious employment — part-time shifts that change weekly, daily, or, as is the case more and more in the restaurant business, that change even in the midst of your assigned shift — means more time worrying about how to make ends meet.

Right now, some restaurants use software that lets them measure the flow of customers and send home staff mid-shift if the normally anticipated number of customers doesn’t arrive. That’s fine for the restaurant’s bottom line, but it sure doesn’t make the work attractive for anyone who has to make ends meet.

Wages and benefits are always going to be the largest item on a business ledger. And that, of course, makes those same wages and benefits the most attractive area to make cuts — either in the number of employees you have, or in the types of pay and benefits that you offer.

But in the employment world, just as with every other aspect of capitalism, there is some truth in the old adage “you get what you pay for.”

If you are going to be offering the lowest denominator in terms of pay and benefits, you may find you will get the employee dedication and helpfulness to match.

If your employees are going to be your customers, well, they have to have enough money to be able to spend it.

You can’t get blood from a turnip. And you can’t make money from someone who can’t afford to buy that turnip, either.

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